Could you have a genital wart caused by HPV?

Fechi Iroegbu
7 min readMar 31, 2024

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If you are sexually active, you are at risk of contracting the HPV virus which causes genital warts and different types of cancers.

More than 90 percent of sexually active men and 80 percent of sexually active women will be infected with HPV in their lifetime. Around 50 percent of HPV infections involve certain high-risk types of HPV, which can cause cancer.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus – so common that 4 in 5 people will be infected with it at some point in their lives. Of the more than 200 strains of the virus, the majority will clear without you ever knowing that you had HPV.

Hearing HPV for the first time!

What is HPV?

HPV which means human papilloma virus There are over 150 subtypes (strains) of HPV, but only a few types can cause warts on certain parts of your body while the others are cancerous.

There are many different strains of HPV. Some of which cause (low risk strains) like, common warts, planter warts, mosaic warts, flat warts, filiform warts, Butcher warts, Focal epithelial hyperplasia (Heck’s disease) , genital warts and (High risk strains) like different cancers. The HPV that causes genital warts is different from the strain that causes cancer and is also different from the warts on the skin. It is good to know that HPV is a different virus than HIV and HSV(herpes)

How does HPV spread?

HPV is mostly spread during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It also spreads through close skin-to-skin touching during sex. A person with HPV can pass the infection to someone even when they have no signs or symptoms. If you are sexually active, you can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. It can also be passed even while wearing a condom! You also can develop symptoms years after having sex with someone who has the infection. This makes it hard to know when you first got it.

Genital warts

Genital Warts are as contagious as any other forms of wart. But genital warts are gotten easily because of sexual contact. Genital Warts can appear many years after contact with the virus which makes it hard for you to know who you contacted it from. HPV 11 and 16 cause 90% of genital warts. Genital Warts can be spread with or without penetration meaning that even if you are a virgin “someone who has not had sexual intercourse” you can still contract genital warts through rubbing of infected skin on your vulva! Remember genital warts can be spread through skin to skin contact which might involve rubbing of genitalia.

Do you have to be sexually active to get genital warts?

No! According to research sexual transmission is the most documented, but there have been studies suggesting non-sexual courses. The horizontal transfer of HPV includes fomites, fingers and mouth, and skin contact (other than sexual). Self-inoculation is described in studies as a potential HPV transmission route, as it was certified in female virgins, and children with genital warts (low-risk HPV) without a personal history of sexual abuse. Vertical transmission from mother to child is another HPV transfer course. Several studies have emphasized the possibility of infection through the amniotic fluid, or the placenta, or via contact with maternal genital mucosa during natural birth. Waterborne transmission of HPV has never been demonstrated; however, HPV DNA has been detected in water environments.

Diagnosing genital warts

Diagnosing genital warts usually involves a visual examination by a healthcare provider. In some cases, a vinegar solution (acetic acid) may be applied to the affected area to make the warts more visible. Additionally, a biopsy may be performed if there is uncertainty about the diagnosis or if the warts do not respond to treatment.

How does a genital wart look like?

Warts look like rough, skin-colored or whitish-grey growths on your skin. Genital warts often have a bumpy cauliflower look, but some are flat. Genital warts aren’t usually painful. Occasionally, they cause:

· Mild bleeding.

· Burning sensation.

· Discomfort.

· Genital itching or irritation.

Genital Warts appear either as single or clustered bumps which may be raised or flat, as compared to a cauliflower

Some warts are very small. Still, you can typically feel or see them. Sometimes the warts cluster together in groups or get very large and take on a stalk-like appearance. Most warts begin as tiny, soft growths and may be unnoticeable.

How do you stop genital warts from spreading?

There are a few things you can do to help genital warts from spreading to your partner:

  • Always use condoms or dental dams during sex.
  • Avoid sex when you have a visible wart.
  • Tell your partner you have genital warts before engaging in sexual activity

How to prevent genital warts!

Abstinence.

Even with precautions genital warts can still be spread but are less likely too. But here are necessary measure you can use to reduce the risk.

  • Use condoms or dental dams
  • Get the HPV vaccine
  • Get routine testing and necessary treatment
  • Tell your sexual partners if you have HPV or genital warts so they can get tested and treated.
  • Be monogamous with one sexual partner or linimt your number of partners
  • Don’t douche

Treatment for genital warts

Treatment for genital warts ranges from tropical creams to surgical procedures to eliminate “genital warts” and not the HPV that causes the wart. Some of these include

· Imiquimod (Zyclara). This cream seems to boost the immune system's ability to fight genital warts. Do not have sexual contact while the cream is on your skin. It might weaken condoms and diaphragms and irritate your partner's skin.

One possible side effect is a change in skin color where the medicine is used. Other side effects might include blisters, body aches or pain, a cough, rashes, and fatigue.

· Podophyllin (Podocon-25) and podofilox (Condylox). Podophyllin is a plant-based substance that destroys genital wart tissue. A health care professional puts this solution on your skin. Podofilox contains the same active compound, but you can put it on at home.

Never place podofilox inside your body. Also, this medicine isn't recommended for use during pregnancy. Side effects can include mild skin irritation, sores and pain.

· Trichloroacetic acid. This chemical treatment burns off genital warts. It also can treat warts inside the body. Side effects can include mild skin irritation, sores and pain.

· Sinecatechins (Veregen). This ointment can treat genital warts on the body and warts in or around the anus. Side effects can include a change in skin color, itching or burning, and pain.

Do not try to treat genital warts with wart removers sold in stores. These medicines aren't meant for use in the genital area.

Surgical procedures

You might need surgery to remove larger warts or ones that don't get better with medicine. If you're pregnant, you may need surgery to remove warts that your baby could come in contact with during delivery. Surgeries for genital warts include:

· Freezing with liquid nitrogen. This also is called cryotherapy. Freezing works by causing a blister to form around the wart. As the skin heals, the warts slough off and new skin appears. You might need to repeat the treatment. The main side effects include pain and swelling.

· Electrocautery. This procedure uses an electric current to burn off warts. You might have some pain and swelling afterward.

· Surgical excision. Warts can be cut off during surgery. You'll need medicine called anesthesia that keeps you from feeling pain during this treatment. You might have pain afterward.

· Laser treatments. This approach uses an intense beam of light. It can be expensive. Most often, it's saved for warts that are extensive and tough to treat. Side effects can include scarring and pain.

Treatment for HPV

There is no treatment for HPV. Although in most cases 9 out of 10 usually the body immune system gets rid of the HPV infection naturally within two years. Since HPV is as a result of weakened immunity. There is convincing evidence that other essential vitamins and nutrients also play a role in clearing HPV some of those other supplements include vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, Retinol Beta and Alpha-carotene Lycopene, Lutein/Zeaxanthin, and Cryptoxanthin. Lifestyle changes such as not taking alcohol, smoking, exercising and eating healthy diets rich in vitamins that can boost immunity can help get rid of the virus.

HPV vaccine

If you have a strain of HPV the HPV vaccine may be essential in protecting you from other strains you have not contracted. The HPV vaccine is very effective in protecting against genital warts and most cases of cervical cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests routine HPV vaccination at age 11 or 12. The ideal age for vaccination is before a person is sexually active.

Although, HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. Some adults aged 27 through 45 years who were not already vaccinated might choose to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about the risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination for them. The HPV virus is contagious so it is essential to get vaccinated and for women to get regular pap smears to detect a HPV infection that may be detrimental to their health.

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Additional information

Pap smear: A routine pap smear is advised for women which helps to detect abnormalities in cell changes and cervical cancer as well as other infections and inflammation. Around 50 percent of HPV infections involve certain high-risk types of HPV, which can cause cancer. Early dectetion can reduce the risk of cancer.

There is no test to accurately detect HPV in men and there is no cure. As a majority of infections would go away without treatment.

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Fechi Iroegbu

Hi, I'm Fechi Iroegbu, a content writer. I craft compellingly narratives around medical and product marketing. For collaborations 📩☺️ fechiiroegbu@gmail.com