Genital warts are a common type of sexually transmitted infection that affects at least half of all the people who are sexually active. These can be described as a small soft fleshy growth sometimes bumps and/or skin changes that appear on the or close to the genital area.
They are viral skin infections and are caused by some strains of the human papilloma virus (the low risk HPV variant). About 1 million people are infected b genital warts yearly and these are caused by the HPV type 6 or type 11.
Genital warts can lead to pain, itching, discomfort and women are mostly endangered because some HPV strains can cause cancer of the cervix and/or vulva. The warts are sometimes invisible to the eye. That is, they can be very small, flesh colored or slightly darker. The top part of the genital warts growth may look like a cauliflower and may be smooth or bump-like when touched.
Genital warts are usually painless but can be inflamed thereby causing itching and discomfort. They may also cause symptoms like vaginal discharge, redness, bleeding and burning sensation in or near the affected area.
Warts can as well cause pain/discomfort when they enlarge and spread. In most cases, HPV infections do not present any symptoms other than the warts alone. Although no other physical symptoms occur, genital warts outbreak may lead to psychological distress (anxiety) in some subjects.
HPV can be transmitted through penetrative or non-penetrative sex. It is less transmissible through the latter. However, evidence to explain the effect of condoms on HPV transmission has been conflicting which is believed to be gender dependent.
The classes of HPV that cause warts are highly transmissible. About three (3) out of four (4) partners of patients who are not affected with warts develop them in eight (8) months. Studies showed that the presence of visible warts can be a sign of increased infectivity. In couples where one partner presents with visible warts, the HPV concordance rate is known to be higher. HPV infection up to90% can be cleared off the body of an infected person within two years of previous infection.
However, infected cells can undergo latency in which case, the initial occurrence or a reoccurrence of symptoms is seen after some months or years. Asymptomatic latent HPV can still be transmitted to a sexual partner. The rate of transmission is about 70% after an unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner. Subjects with the history of HPV may present with new warts either from a new exposure or from a reoccurrence of the initial infection.
Genital warts cure is achievable by pharmacological approach as well as by employing some home remedies. lt is known that the vaccine; Gardasil, marketed by Merck and Co is being used to prevent infection by the human papilloma virus types L6, 6,18, as well as type 11. HPV types 11 and 6 are the low risk HPV types which precipitate genital warts whereas types 18 and 16 cause cervical cancer. The Merck vaccine is recommended to be used before exposure to any of the genital warts virus.
Gardasil is not therapeutic for HPV instead it is preventive. lt has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration to prevent the progression of the human papilloma virus in both male and female.
There are different treatment modalities with which genital warts could be eradicated. Depending on the nature of the.infection, the infection can disappear within some period of time without any treatment. Evidence from studies carried out about HPV infections have states that HPV cannot be cured. However,’treatments are directed towards the eradication of visible warts which sometimes are capable of disappearing in the absence of therapy. No study has proved that removing the visible growth will reduce the transmission of existing HPV infection. Body clearance of the infection may occur in 80% of infected subjects within 18 months.
Depending on the size of the warts in the affected part, number, location and other factors, a health practitioner may provide have some approach to get rid of them but this may lead to de-pigmentation, scare formation and itching.
Treatment for this infection is either done by using topical agents, home remedies or by physical ablation. The latter is known to be more effective for removing initial infection but the recurrence rate is high.
- Scissors can be used for excision under local anesthesia.
- Liquid nitrogen cryosurgery can be done on a weekly basis.
- Electro-cauterization also known as loop electrical excision procedure is as well considered effective.
- Laser ablation, though less effective, can be employed as a last line treatment option.
- Surgery by specialists.
- 0.15-0.5% podophyllotoxin marketed as Condylox(0.5%), Wartec (0.15%) and Warticon (0.15%)
- Imiquimod (Aldara), a topical immune response cream. This is to be used on the affected area.
- Sinecatechins marketed as Veregen and Polyphenon E. It has a higher clearance rates than podophyllotoxin and imiquimod. Clearance usually takes longer time than with imiquimod but it cause less irritation.
- Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is less effective than cryosurgery. This is not recommended for use in the vagina, cervix and in the urinary meatus.
- Interferon can be used, though has inconsistent effect, can be used to treat warts.
Apple cider vinegar warts are popularly used as a home remedy for genital warts treatment and it is highly effective. It elicits antiviral effect that kills the virus while eradicating the abnormal skin growth.
- Apply petroleum jelly to protect the unaffected area around the warts;
- Use moistened cotton ball to apply apple cider vinegar on the affected area;
- Hold the cotton ball in place for two to three hours with adhesive tape;
- Remove the cotton and wash the area using warm water;
- Repeat the above process after one hour;
- Treatment should be done two to three times daily for some days until warts disappear.
- Drinking the diluted apple cider vinegar solution is also beneficial to an infected person.
Genital warts infection can be a more serious and complicated infection if not properly treated. Uninfected patients should abstain from things that can predispose one to such infection (unprotected sex and others) and practice good hygiene to prevent disease onset. Always consult a doctor if any of its symptoms is noticed.