Genital Warts (Human Papilloma Virus)

What Is the Human Papilloma Virus?

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) commonly causes warts. Some strains of HPV can cause different types of cancer, however most HPV infections do not lead to cancer. These infections are transmitted sexually or by skin-to-skin contact.

In females, these warts can occur around the opening to the vagina, on the cervix or around the rectum. They can grow rapidly, especially where there is heavy sweating or moisture.

What Causes Genital Warts?

Genital warts are spread by sexual contact or skin-to-skin contact where the virus enters the body. Warts are contagious and are the most common sexually transmitted infection caused by a virus. During pregnancy or delivery the HPV virus can be passed on to the baby from an infected mother.

An increase in sexual partners, weak immune systems and damage to skin can increase one’s risk of getting a HPV infection. Touching surfaces that have been exposed to HPV without protection can increase the risk of getting HPV, such as public showers or swimming pools.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of HPV Infections?

HPV infections can be defeated without ever forming a wart or cancer by the body’s simple immune response.

Genital warts can cause itching and irritation. Genital warts are skin-colored, cauliflower-like, painless growths.

Some warts are the flat type and hard to see. Most commonly theses are found by a pap test of the cervix. HPV on a pap test only means that the virus has been detected. It does not mean you have warts or cancer. Your first pap test will be at 21 years old and typically every three years thereafter.

How Are Genital Warts Diagnosed and Treated?

Most warts are diagnosed by a provider looking at the warts. In children, warts can go away without treatment. There is no cure for the virus, therefore they can reappear.

There are several treatments for warts. They can be treated in the office with a medicine called TCA (trichloroacetic acid). Another treatment is a topical cream that requires a prescription and can be applied at home. If there are many warts or they do not go away with initial treatment, they may need to be removed by surgery.

There is a vaccine that may help protect against HPV. It is recommended that both boys and girls have the vaccine.