Genital Warts

Genital Warts are an extremely common sexually transmitted viral infection, which is incurable and can spread easily between sexual partners, even when protection is used. Although it isn’t likely to cause serious complications, the warts can itch and cause discomfort because of where they are located.

How common is it?

Genital warts are surprisingly common in the UK – almost as much so as gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Of all the viral STIs, it is the most commonly reported. Genital warts affect both men and women, but cases are most commonly diagnosed in men between the ages of 20 to 24, and in women aged 16 to 19.

How do you get it?

The two types of human papilloma viruses (HPV) that cause genital warts can spread via direct genital contact, which is why having oral, anal or vaginal sex is one of the most convenient ways by which it is spread.

It is also believed that it can spread by coming into contact with contaminated objects or by touching someone else’s genitals and then touching your own (although this has not conclusively been proven).

How is it diagnosed?

Not everyone with genital warts will develop the actual projections on the skin. However, if genital warts do develop they tend to appear on the inner thighs, urethra and anus. In women they can also develop outside the vagina, in the neck of the womb (cervix) or on the inside of the anus. In men these warts may develop on the scrotum or on the shaft or tip of the penis. Both sexes can develop warts in the throat, mouth or nose.

Can it be prevented?

If you or your partner has genital warts, your doctor or GUM clinic will be able to provide you with guidelines on when it is safe to have sex. Condoms can provide partial protection if the area where the virus is affecting is underneath the condom. You may also have the option of getting a vaccination with Gardasil, which can provide almost 100% protection against an most HPV infections. However, it will only work if you aren’t already infected. The vaccine is free for most girls under 16.

Genital warts test

In order to clarify whether you have genital warts, a doctor will need to perform a physical examination, and if a conclusive diagnosis still cannot be reached, a biopsy of the warts may be required, although cases of this are rare.

Can genital warts be cured?

The human papilloma viruses that cause genital warts can’t ever be completely eradicated, but can be treated with the help of genital warts treatments such as Warticon, Aldara or Condyline. Warticon and Condyline both have the same active ingredients and work to have a toxic effect on the actual wart cells themselves, meaning that they can’t reproduce and will eventually die. Aldara, on the other hand, works to stimulate the immune system to attack the wart cells more effectively, so that the warts eventually go away. All of these medications are used topically to provide targeted, convenient treatment.