STD’s are never an easy subject to talk about, but you would be amazed to know the number of men and women who have, or have had them in the past. Today we are looking at genital warts and the virus that causes them—HPV(human papillomavirus). Now first you need to understand the basics: STD’s can come from a bacteria or a virus. Bacterial ones, like chlamydia and gonorrhea can be completely removed with antibiotics—never to return again (unless you have sex with someone who gives it back to you). Viruses—like HPV and HIV will never leave your body. We can’t cure them. We can only treat the symptoms.
After years of seeing girls with genital warts, I have to say it’s one STD that upsets a lot of them. Why? Because you can see it—eventually. (Stick with me here, and see point #4 below.)
Now let’s get some basics on HPV and warts:
- There are over 100 types of HPV virus and only a few cause genital warts.
- Warts are highly contagious. You have a 60% chance of getting them from just one sexual act with a person who has them.
- Warts are gray-colored or the color of your skin and occur around your anus, vagina or on the area around them. They can even be up inside your vagina on your cervix.
- It can take up to ten years for warts to develop once you have been exposed. During that time you are carrying and transmitting the disease to others and may never even know. That’s why you can’t just look at someone and know if they have an STD or not—so you might as well give that idea up now.
- Regular warts on your skin are not the same kind of warts. They are caused by a type of HPV, but not even lump them in with the genital type—they are not an STD.
Warts are usually painless but can irritate some areas of your genitals and cause itching and you may notice a little bit of drainage or discharge. They can grow out as just one or clump together and make a larger area. They may not cause any other problems unless a wart grows over or blocks your urethra—the hole urine comes out from. If you can’t urinate due to blockage from a wart, you need to get emergency treatment right away. You should also seek medical help if you have a bleeding wart that doesn’t stop with pressure.
There’s little that can be done to treat warts. Make sure to never squeeze them and try not to do anything that would make them bleed. Always be careful not to spread them to others and use a barrier when you have sex—like a condom. Freezing—you can have the warts frozen with liquid nitrogen. This is the simplest and easiest treatment with the fewest side effects. Beyond that, your doctor also offers laser and electrical treatments to burn off the warts. These can be expensive and may require that you be sedated to complete the procedure and control pain. And the bad news is, the warts can always come back.
Women who have HPV should take steps to prevent additional complications like changes in the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. Women with HPV have a higher rate of cervical cancer than other women and should be monitored at least once a year.
If you have been worried about getting help for a mystery bump, or aren’t sure where to start, come see Dr. Hessel, or your local doctor today.