Genital warts, also known as the human papillomavirus (HPV), is the most common STD in the world. In fact, according to Centers for Disease Control, about half of all sexually active men and women contract HPV over their lifetimes. HPV is one of about 40 different types of viruses that can show themselves on male and female genitalia.
Genital Wart Basics
There are more than 100 different forms of HPV, though only about 40 actually can be transmitted to the genital region and thus can cause genital warts. Genital warts, as stated, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world, affecting nearly half of the sexually active population. In addition to being unsightly, HPV has been linked to certain forms of cancer, including cervical cancer in women. Potential affected genital areas in men and women are the skin of the penis, the vulva, anus, rectum, cervix and vagina. Most people who are infected with HPV have no clue they carry the virus.
Genital Wart Symptoms
As stated, the vast majority of people who carry HPV are asymptomatic, meaning they do not show any signs of actually carrying the virus. However, in some instances--depending on the genital wart strain and the carrier's immune system--symptoms may arise. Such symptoms include small bumps or groupings of bumps in the genital region. These bumps can take on various appearances, from raised or flat to large or small.
Genital Wart Incubation
Although the majority of people infected with HPV never show any signs, some people will begin to start showing symptoms as little as 2 weeks after infection. Often, for those who do become symptomatic, genital warts will appear within several weeks or even several months after the initial infection. These symptoms can persist for up to 2 years before the body's immune system can tackle the virus, eliminating symptoms. Women with persistent cases of HPV, which do not clear after 2 years, are at high risk for developing cervical cancer.
Genital Wart Treatment
As stated, most people infected with HPV never become symptomatic. But for that 1 percent that does, the body's natural immune system can typically fight off the virus within two years. There are also various medications that a doctor can prescribe, such as fast-acting topical creams, that when placed on the affected area, can quickly eliminate any bumps or clumps of warts. It is also important for women to get regular screenings for cervical cancer, especially women who have had symptomatic signs of HPV.