For the first time in our examination of sexually transmitted infections we say hello to our good friend HPV(human papillomavirus). There are several kinds of HPV, and some of them cause genital warts. Luckily, the information I’ve been able to find suggests that the strains of HPV that cause warts are different from the strains of HPV that contribute to cervical or anal cancer.
Genital warts is one of those sneaky infections – you may not know you have it, and once you know all you can do is treat the symptoms. It is also difficult to protect against. As far as I can tell, genital warts do not create any long-term health problems.
Prevention: Don’t have sex if you or your partner has visible genital warts. Condoms (male or female) protect against infection in the areas they cover, but it is possible to be infected in other regions. As female condoms cover more of the genitals, they provide greater protection. The HPV vaccine provides protection against some forms of HPV that cause genital warts. The vaccine in not recommended for men or women over 26 years old.
Treatment: Treatment is restricted to treating the symptoms. Over-the-counter treatments are ineffective. A doctor can remove the warts using surgery or provide a prescription treatment.
Symptoms: Men who are infected will only have symptoms 10% of the time. Women develop symptoms more than half the time. An infected person can transmit the infection whether or not they have symptoms. When warts develop they can look like small cauliflower, or flesh-colored bumps. Warts can occur pretty much anywhere on or in the genitals and anus, as well as on the lips, mouth and throat. A weakened immune system due to illness, pregnancy, medication or other cause increases the risk of warts developing.
While unsightly when they develop, genital warts are not an STD/STI that we need to be overly concerned with. Realistically, genital warts are no different from warts anywhere else on the body (which are all caused by HPV). So if you wouldn’t freak out about your partner having warts on hir hands, there is no reason to freak out about genital warts.