Genital warts are a telltale sign that you have contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI). According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), there are approximately 20 million people in the United States who are infected with the virus that causes genital warts and the numbers continue to grow annually. Genital warts can affect both genders and usually develop on the vulva, cervix, vagina and anus of women. In men genital warts develop most often on the penis and scrotum. There is currently no vaccine or cure, but there are ways to help prevent the spread of the virus.
What are Genital Warts?
Genital warts are also referred to as condylomata acuminate and are sexually transmitted. Genital warts often develop in clusters---although it is not unusual for a stray wart to appear here and there---and appear as flesh-colored, raised bumps that can be round or flat. According to the Mayo Clinic, genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is also linked to cervical cancer in women.
HPV invades human tissue and mucus glands, causing infection and abnormalities. How serious the virus is---and the symptoms it causes---depends on the specific virus strain you contract. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there is no cure for genital warts that result from an HPV infection; however, there are treatment options and prevention methods that can be used.
The treatment for genital warts is individually based and depends on the severity of the warts and their location. Liquid nitrogen is used to remove genital warts when medicated creams alone do not suffice. Discuss your options with a doctor instead of pursuing a treatment method on your own. Note that wart medications developed for use on other areas of the body are not intended for use on the genitals.
HPV and the genital warts that may result from the viral infection are completely preventable. The most foolproof way of avoiding the virus is abstinence. There is also a relatively new vaccine, Gardasil, that offers protection for women. The vaccine can be administered to girls and young women between the ages of 9 and 26. The vaccination is given in three doses and guards against four of the known HPV strains.
Even if you do not see any visible sign of genital warts on your partner during sex, you can still acquire them; the warts do not need to be visible to transmit the virus. Also, there is no condom available on the market that protects against genital warts. Of course, condoms are still recommended to help prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.