Sexual health is considered one of the most important pillars of physical health. This means a sexually active individual must get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections every 6 months. Although this applies to people who are not sexually active as well, it becomes vital for one to go through these tests when their sexual partner changes. Additionally, having a conversation regarding health tests and sexual history can also contribute to reducing stigmatization around sexual health.
That being said, one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections is Genital Warts. Sexually active people get infected with at least one kind of human papillomavirus (HPV) at one point during their lives. Keep in mind that the leading cause of genital warts is human papillomavirus. So, once a person has been infected with warts on their genitals, what is the diagnosis process like, and what are the treatment options? These are questions that we will answer today.
Learning How to Spot Genital Warts
In general, genital warts can affect the moist tissues of the genital area. However, genital warts can appear on the mouth, lips, tongue, and any other area with which the infected genital has contact. These warts tend to appear as tiny, flesh-coloured bumps that may sometimes look similar to a cauliflower. Although in most cases, the warts are too small to be visible to the human eye and thus can not be detected without a professional's diagnosis.
Keep in mind that some strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause genital warts, whereas other strains can be the leading cause of cancer.
Genital warts in females can occur in various places like vulva, walls of the vagina, area between the external genitals and anus, the anal canal, as well as the cervix. On the other hand, in men, warts may occur on the tip or shaft of the penis, the scrotum, or even the anus. Similarly, genital warts can develop in the mouth, throat or area surrounding the mouth of a person who has had oral sexual contact with an infected person.
There are a few signs and symptoms of genital warts, and they include:
- Tiny, flesh-coloured, brown or pink bumps in your genital area
- A cauliflower kind of shape caused by several warts that develop closely together
- Itching or discomfort in your genital area
- Burning sensation in your genital area
- Bleeding during intercourse
How are Genital Warts Diagnosed?
It is easier to know whether you require medical attention or not once you know what the symptoms of the sexually transmitted infection are. When you know what you are supposed to look out for, you can get the infection treated sooner, providing relief. So, in order to diagnose this condition, your primary physician will do the following:
- Question you about your physical health and sexual history. You will be required to list the symptoms that you may have experienced. Also, you will be questioned on whether you have had sexual intercourse, including oral sex, without using condoms or oral dams.
- If needed, the doctor may perform a physical examination of any areas where you may suspect warts are occurring. Most doctors are able to diagnose genital warts just by looking at them.
- In order to make sure that the diagnosis is accurate, you will be advised to take a few tests to confirm whether you have warts or not.
- During the inspection, your doctor may apply a mildly acidic solution commonly referred to as an acetowhite test. This allows your skin to help make genital warts more visible to the human eye. However, the acidic solution may cause a slight burning sensation.
- Keep in mind that if you have a vulva, your doctor may also need to perform a pelvic examination. This is because genital warts can appear deep inside your body, too.
What are the Treatments Available for Genital Warts?
Although visible genital warts often go away on their own over time, HPV itself is known to linger in a person's skin cells. This means that you may have several outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections or diseases throughout your life. That is why it is essential to manage symptoms of genital warts. You would also want to avoid transmitting the virus to other people you have sexual contact with. Genital warts can be passed on to others despite no visible warts or other symptoms.
Now, it is natural to wish to treat genital warts to relieve painful symptoms or even to minimise the appearance of warts. However, it is vital to remember that you can not treat genital warts with over-the-counter (OTC) wart removers or treatments. The following methods are the most popular and effective treatment options for genital warts:
Your doctor may prescribe topical wart treatments, which are easy to find and may include:
However, if the visibility of warts does not reduce or warts do not go away after a while, you may require minor surgery to get rid of them. The following procedures are the most common ones:
- Electrocautery (burning warts with electric currents)
- Cryosurgery (freezing warts)
- Laser treatments
- Excision (cutting off warts)
- Injections of interferon