What is HPV?
The virus that causes genital warts is called human papilloma virus (HPV). More than 70 different types of HPV exist. Certain types of HPV can lead to precancerous changes in the cervix, cervical cancer, or anal cancer. These are called high-risk types of HPV.
Not all types of HPV cause genital warts. Other types of HPV cause warts on other parts of the skin, such as the hands. This article focuses on warts on the genitals.
HPV infection around the genitals is common. Most people have no symptoms. In women, HPV can spread to areas inside, on the walls of the vagina and cervix. They are not easy to see without special procedures.
Important facts about HPV:
• HPV infection spreads from one person to another through sexual contact involving the anus, mouth, or vagina. You can spread the warts even if you do not see them.
• You may not see warts for six weeks to six months after becoming infected. You may not notice them for years.
• Not everyone who has come into contact with the HPV virus and genital warts will develop them.
Your teen is more likely to get genital warts and spread them more quickly if he or she:
• Has multiple sexual partners
• Does not know if he or she had sex with someone who had STIs
• Is sexually active at an early age
• Uses tobacco and alcohol
• Has a viral infection such as herpes and is stressed at the same time
• Is pregnant
• Has a weakened immune system due to an illness or medication
What are the symptoms of HPV?
Genital warts can be so tiny, you cannot see them.
The warts can look like:
• Flesh-colored spots that are raised or flat
• Growths that look like the top of a cauliflower
In females, genital warts can be found:
• Inside the vagina or anus
• Outside the vagina or anus, or on nearby skin
• On the cervix inside the body
In males, genital warts can be found on the:
• Groin area
• Inside or around the anus
Genital warts can also occur on the:
Other symptoms are rare, but can include:
• Increased dampness in the genital area near the warts
• Increased vaginal discharge
• Genital itching
• Vaginal bleeding during or after sex
How is HPV treated?
Genital warts must be treated by a doctor. Do NOT use over-the-counter medicines meant for other kinds of warts.
Treatment may include:
• A skin treatment done in the doctor's office
• Prescription medicine that you apply at home several times per week
Prescription medicines include:
• Imiquimod (Aldara)
• Podophyllin and podofilox (Condylox)
• Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)
The warts may be removed with surgery, including:
• Laser therapy
• Surgical excision (cutting them out)
If your teen has genital warts, all sexual partners must be examined by a health care provider and treated if warts are found. Even if your teen does NOT have symptoms, he or she must be treated to prevent complications and spreading the condition to others.
Your teen will need to return to your health care provider after treatment to make sure all the warts are gone.
Regular Pap smears are recommended if your teen is a woman who has had genital warts, or if her partner had them. If she had warts on your cervix, she may need to have Pap smears every three to six months after the first treatment.
Women with precancerous changes caused by HPV infection may need further treatment.
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