Genital Warts Symptoms
Genital warts caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are considered a sexually transmitted disease with great repercussion at international level. More than 100 pathogens of this disease are known, although only 40 subtypes are sexually transmissible.
Genital warts are also called condylomata acuminata which appear mainly on the lips of the vulva, vagina, penis, urethra, anal canal, rectum and sometimes in the cervix. Genital warts usually cause few or no symptoms and are easily missed. However, in specific cases, warts in the genital area caused by HPV can spread and can develop into malignant tumors.
What Are Genital Warts?
Genital warts are also called condylomata acuminata and are caused by skin alterations caused by human papillomavirus that mainly affect the genital area.
Initially genital warts are benign tumors of the skin and mucosa that sometimes heal spontaneously (ie, on their own).
However, triggering HPV virus is clearly related to preliminary stages of malignant tumors (called precarcinomas) and carcinomas in the genital area in both men and women. Thus, for example, HPV can be detected in almost 100% of all cases of cervical cancer. In addition to the typical genital warts, human papillomavirus (HPV) can also cause warts on the skin outside of genital areas.
Incidence of Genital Warts: Genital warts are caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) have the highest international incidence among all sexually transmitted diseases. Since most HPV infections in the genitals have an asymptomatic course, more than half of those infected do not know their disease.
Thanks to the introduction of systematic vaccination against human papillomavirus, genital warts are declining. Thus, in a recent study conducted in Belgium among women aged 16 to 22 years have been reduced by 72%. The protection of the vaccine also extends to men, since in the group of 16 to 22 years has been reduced by 51% number of affected by genital warts.
Although both men and women are equally susceptible to HPV infections, HPV-related malignancies are more common in women (vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer and anus cancer). Despite this, men can also suffer from anemia, penile cancer and oropharyngeal cancer from HPV.
Each year more than 30 million people develop a new HPV infection. Since most HPV infections in the genitals have an asymptomatic course, more than half of those infected do not know their disease.
Although both men and women are equally susceptible to HPV infections, HPV-related malignancies are more common in women.
What Causes Genital Warts
The causes of genital warts (condylomata acuminata) are infections with a specific virus called HPV (human papillomavirus). This pathogen belongs to the papillomavirus family. Their different agents cause respectively tumors in the form of warts (called papillomas) that present a degenerative tendency. More than 100 different types of HPV are known worldwide.
Depending on the risk of developing cancer related to each subtype of HPV, these are classified into low-risk HPV types and high-risk HPV types.
Similarly, HPV infections can cause genital warts and disorders both in the genital area (in total there are more than 30 HPV types that cause genital warts) and in other parts of the body depending on pathogen. The human papillomaviruses are responsible for warts as low risk types:
- HPV type 6 and 11 are the most common pathogens of genital warts (condylomata acuminata). They usually appear in the genital area, but can also be around the anus.
- HPV types 1, 2, and 4 are the causes of common warts (verrucae vulgaris) and usually appear on the hands, feet, arms and face.
- HPV type 3 and 10 are the main triggers of flat warts that usually appear in children and adolescents (verrucae planae juveniles) and affect mainly face, hands and arms.
The causes of HPV infection responsible for genital warts (condylomata acuminata) are tiny lesions (microlesions) of the skin and mucosa. Pathogens can be transmitted in different ways with sexual intercourse being the most common route of infection by HPV.
Because, sexual pathway is the most common form of transmission of human papillomaviruses and genital warts are part of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Therefore, young and sexually active adults have a particularly high risk of genital warts. Tobacco and birth control pills favor HPV infection.
If mother has genital warts, baby can become infected with HPV during childbirth. In HPV infection viruses enter the epithelial cells through microlesions and proliferate in their cell. Genital warts develop within three weeks to eight months after infection.
Genital Warts Symptoms
Genital warts symptoms depend on the area where the skin changes appear. Many genital warts can barely be seen and cause little or no discomfort. Genital warts are also known as condylomata acuminata which are formed when an infection of the skin or mucosa by HPV occurs through microlesions. The first symptoms are small, flat or irregularly arranged flat nodules (papules) and are difficult to detect. A genital wart may continue to grow and adopt a form of cock or cauliflower ridge, with a reddish, gray or whitish color.
Genital Warts Diagnosis
The diagnosis of genital warts caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) is usually established by its typical appearance. However, in the initial stage and in certain circumstances, papules on the affected skin are not seen or can hardly be seen. To make them visible, they can be rubbed with 3% acetic acid to give them a white coloration. In genital warts on external organs, acetic acid can be applied directly and see the change of coloration; However, in internal organs such as the urethra, a fluorescence urethroscopy is necessary.
Since genital warts may also be related to the appearance of a skin cancer. In the case of doubt, it is necessary to extract a sample and analyze it under a microscope to get accurate diagnosis. It is also important to rule out other sexually transmitted diseases that can intensify or remain hidden by HPV (AIDS).
How To Treat Genital Warts?
The treatment of genital warts caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) depends on the size and extent of skin alterations. Treatment should be repeated which is complicated by the reappearance of the lesions in many cases. After healing of the warts in genital area, it is recommended to check the treatment results for a certain time.
The different possibilities of treatment of genital warts and other skin infections by HPV range from self-medication to different medical treatments. Doctors use trichloroacetic acid to smear genital warts. Cryotherapy (warts freezing), electrotherapy and laser therapy are also available for medical treatment of skin or mucosal infections by HPV. Surgical removal of the warts is not recommended as treatment because it is related to scarring and a high rate of recurrence.
Genital Warts Prognosis: If genital warts caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) are treated, prognosis is usually good. Sometimes they also heal spontaneously without treatment. The prognosis is worse in the case of a widespread condition due to the proliferation of warts (Buschke-Löwenstein tumors) and transformation of genital warts into malignant tumors.
In specific cases, genital warts caused by HPV can cause a complication in pregnant women: Buschke-Löwenstein tumors can cause a displacement of the birth canal. Thus, this type of giant wart requires a cesarean delivery.
How To Prevent Genital Warts: Genital warts caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) can be prevented in different ways. Since HPV infection occurs mainly through sexual intercourse, a possible measure is to use condoms in sexual intercourse. This reduces the risk of HPV transmission between men and women. However, absolute protection against HPV infection is only possible through sexual abstinence or the monogamy of each partner (if neither partner is infected) from the first sexual contact.
Initially, genital warts caused by HPV are always benign. Although in both men and women, triggering virus is clearly related to preliminary stages of malignant tumors (called precarcinomas) and to carcinomas in the genital area. Since HPV is detected in almost all cases of cervical cancer, it is recommended that all girls over the age of 11 to be given a vaccine against HPV as a preventive measure against cervical cancer (cervical cancer) . The vaccine should be given before the first sexual intercourse and is not effective when precancerous lesions are already present. This vaccine, in any of its two commercial presentations (Gardasil or Cervarix), is financed by the Social Security.
Men can also get vaccinated against genital warts through the tetravalent (Gardasil) vaccine against papillomavirus.