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Genital Warts and Photos
In this article, we’ll be looking specifically at genital warts, including some graphical photos / pictures of male genital warts, vaginal genital warts, and anal genital warts.
What causes genital warts, the symptoms of genital warts, the treatment of genital warts, and just how much of a problem are genital warts?
Like any sexually transmitted disease, genital warts should be taken seriously, but it can be embarrassing and nerve wracking asking someone else for a diagnosis of genital warts, so this article will hopefully answer many of the questions you haven’t been able to ask or were curious about.
Photos and pictures of genital warts - vaginal warts, penis warts, and anal warts can be found below.
Causes of Genital Warts
Genital warts are caused by the same kind of virus that causes the common warts that occur on hands, feet and other parts of the body.
This warts virus is the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, and there are at least 90 different varieties of the virus that have been found to date. Wart viruses evolve much faster than humans do, because they can produce copies of themselves at a much greater rate than we can, so new varieties of genital warts are likely to be discovered in the future.
About 30 or so of the known subtypes of HPV cause genital warts. Like any virus, HPV needs to be inside the cells of another organism to produce copies of itself. For HPV, this is the skin cells of a human being, and specifically, the cells that exist just below the visible layer of skin. The outside of your skin is made up of cells that are no longer alive, and are being shed all the time (most house dust is made up of dead skin cells that have fallen off in the line of their duty). The living, growing layer is underneath that, and it is here that HPV genital warts virus takes hold.
HPV causes the epithelial cells, that’s the ones making new skin, to grow at a much faster rate than usual. This growth erupts out into the visible, outer skin as a roughly circular or cylindrical lump. If several lumps all grow together, as often occurs, the genital warts look like a single growth, with a rough, cauliflower-like appearance.
At the end of this lump, the cells involved release new copies of the virus, intended to spread to other hosts.
Genital warts aren’t really any different to other warts other than where they occur, but that does have some important ramifications, as we shall see later.
Symptoms of Genital Warts
Like any wart, you may notice small lumps in the skin on or round your genitals.
Genital warts may be small, flesh-coloured bumps with smooth surfaces, or they may be the slightly larger, greyish bumps with the classic cauliflower look that warts have.
In women, the genital warts may occur on the vulva, the vagina and the cervix, as can be seen in the photo of female / vagina genital warts below:
Whereas men find the warts on the penis, scrotum, groin or thighs, as can be seen in the photo / picture below of genital warts on the penis.
Both sexes may find genital warts round the anus and perineum.
(The above three genital wart photos courtesy of SOA-AIDS of Amsterdam.)
The genital wart lumps may feel slightly numb or odd to the touch, as genital warts don’t have the nerve supply normal skin does, but often the genital warts are only noticed when you touch them during washing.
However, HPV does not always cause warts to grow instantly, or in some cases, at all!
You can still have the genital warts virus and give genital warts to others without actually growing warts, or you may have it for some weeks or months before any genital warts develop. This is part of the problem with genital warts.
Genital warts are highly contagious, and spread by direct contact during sex, but it’s perfectly possible to catch them from someone who doesn’t know they have the virus and doesn’t actually have any genital warts. Like many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), genital warts can be an invisible threat.
It’s also very common, with about one in a hundred people carrying the genital warts virus. Once you’ve had it, the genital warts virus lies dormant in your body, rather like chicken pox does, and there is always a chance that the genital warts will come back.
However, most of the time, your body deals with the genital warts infections quietly and by itself, which may account for the fact that the genital warts don’t always appear. Your body may fight off the genital warts infection before the virus causes a full outbreak of genital warts to grow.
Most commonly, sexually active people in their early twenties develop genital warts.
Diagnosis of Genital Warts
A case of genital warts is usually diagnosed with a visual examination by a doctor.
To aid them, they may paint the suspicious area with a solution of mild acetic acid (the same stuff that’s in vinegar), which makes the surface of genital warts turn white and become easier to see. This isn’t a terribly accurate test, though, and can react with perfectly healthy skin!
Although tests exist to see exactly what kind of HPV is causing the genital warts, they are expensive, complicated and unnecessary, because the genital warts treatment (if required) will still be the same.
Genital Warts Treatment
So how do you treat genital warts? How do you get rid of genital warts?
Well, in most cases, as I’ve said, the body’s immune response will get rid of the genital warts in the course of time. Genital warts may be present for a number of months, though, and most people will want to get rid of them long before they go of their own accord, which can be some years in some people.
A chemical called podophyllin can be painted on to genital warts - this kills the cells in the genital warts safely and causes the genital warts to shrink and die over time. Most of the acidic solutions used on warts elsewhere on the body aren’t used on the sensitive skin of the genitals, it would cause too much irritation.
There is also now a vaccine for genital warts that is only available for women, and is recommended for use at the age of around 12-13. It takes six months or so for the course to be completed, but is also available for women up to the age of 26. Work is being done to make the genital warts vaccine available for men as well.
Larger genital warts can be removed by minor surgical techniques like freezing or cauterising (burning), but these can be painful in the delicate areas entailed by genital warts.
According to Donald, the web site editor, the treatment of Genital warts can also include essential oils and you can read more about that here. Essential oils and herbal compounds have been around and used to get rid of all forms of warts for a long, long time.
Prevention is the best way of avoiding genital warts.
If you are sexually active, particularly if you have multiple partners, condoms help reduce the risks of getting genital warts, although only if condoms are used every time and correctly.
Dangers and Risks of Genital Warts
Some of the strains of HPV that cause genital warts can have a lasting effect on your health by causing changes to the way the cells in the cervix grow that can make it easier for them to become cancerous in later life.
This is why it is important to have genital warts treated, and to make sure you do not pass them on to other people - genital warts are a risk factor for cervical cancer in women - and there isn’t a test for your HPV status (i.e. to see if you’re carrying the virus or not), and genital warts, although embarrassing and unsightly as they are, they don’t really cause enough health problems to merit developing such tests at the moment.
Instead, there are extensive screening programs to look for the cancers that HPV may make you more likely to get, such as smear and pap tests for women, and the DNA tests that can identify which strain of HPV is present are sometimes used in conjunction with pap tests.
HPV-related cancers are incredibly rare in men, so other than the routine check-ups you should have for testicular cancers, you won’t need extra follow-up.
It is worth noting that in children under the age of ten, infection with genital warts can be a sign of sexual abuse. It is perfectly possible to get them without sexual abuse occurring, however, and sensitivity must be exercised in approaching what is an extremely delicate topic. If you are concerned, discuss it with your child’s doctor.
Summary of Genital Warts
Genital warts are an extremely common STD that is easily avoided with sensible precautions, but if caught, genital warts are easily treated.
Genital warts do carry a risk of more serious problems later in life, especially in women, however, and should be taken seriously.
Like all STDs, practising safe sex is key to avoiding the genital warts infection.
Main write by Dr. James D. Hogg, (BSc Oxon, MBBS & BA Hons), medical doctor, and minor rewrite by D S Urquhart.
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