Genital warts are symptomatic of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and can occur in both men and women of any age. Genital warts are soft growths of skin that are either flesh colored or grey in color and are found in the area of the genitals and anus. Also known as venereal warts, genital warts are very contagious and all it takes is one sexual contact with an infected person to contract the infection. The highest percentage of cases of genital warts occurs in men and women between the ages of 17 and 33. If a person suffers from genital warts, it is likely that he or she also suffers from other sexually transmitted diseases as well. While genital warts are less commonly found in children, the presence of this infection in younger children should alert caregivers to the possibility of sexual abuse.
Very often, genital warts are difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms are not obvious. In most cases genital warts are painless and small enough to remain undetected. When this happens, the person often remains unaware that he has contracted a sexually transmitted infection for a long period of time. Genital warts may also not appear until months after sexual contact with an infected person making it all the more difficult to pinpoint the cause of the infection.
Some common symptoms of genital warts include:
If you suspect that you may have contracted genital warts, it is important to visit your doctor at the earliest and do a series of medical tests to diagnose and treat the condition. For women, a doctor may conduct a pelvic exam to check the walls of the vagina and the cervix for warts. Since some lesions may be too small to be visible by the naked eye, the doctor may need to magnify the area to determine the spread of the infection. To test the internal walls of the vagina and cervix a solution of acetic acid may be used to make the warts more visible.
If you have a history of STDs or are sexually active, a Pap smear is necessary to note any changes in internal activity of the reproductive organs. All women should start having a Pap smear test at least once a year as soon as they turn 21.
The human papillomavirus or HPV is the main cause of genital warts. There are over a hundred different types of HPVs from which around 40 different strains have the ability to cause a genital wart infection. Some of the HPVs have the potential to develop into cancer, while ninety percent are relatively harmless. The HPV-16, HPV-18, HPV-31, and HPV-45 are high-risk types and are responsible for cases of cervical cancer.
If you have sex with an infected person, there are higher chances of developing genital warts within 3 months of the initial sexual contact. The HPVs that cause genital warts are highly contagious and can spread even from a single sexual contact.
The use of birth control pills has also been associated with the spread of the disease as in most cases; partners do not use any barrier method of contraception along with the contraceptive pills thus increasing the chances of spreading any infection.
The first step towards treating genital warts is confirming their presence and if they have been caused by a sexually transmitted infection. If you have been infected, utmost care needs to be taken not to spread the disease to other partners. This means restricting sexual intercourse with multiple partners and using a barrier method of contraception such as a condom at all times. It is also imperative to keep the genital area clean and dry. Wash underwear with a non-allergic, mild detergent and wear cotton underwear as this encourages the circulation of air and prevents excessive sweating in the genital area. Take precautions not to touch the warts or pick and squeeze them as this can spread the infection as well. Cutting warts by yourself can cause more damage, so do not resort to such remedies either.
For most people, genital warts is an embarrassing condition and people may prefer to self-medicate and resort to home remedies for genital warts instead of going to a doctor or asking a pharmacist for the required medication. Keep in mind that there is no permanent cure for genital herpes and genital warts that result from the infection, whether relying on medical or alternative treatments. Medical attention is however advised, as your doctor will be able to better monitor the condition and inform you about the risks involved. At the same time home treatments could also come in handy. Be cautious when attempting to use any home remedies however, and do not rely on them alone, as most home remedies are not backed by scientific studies and their effectiveness could vary greatly. Here are some tips for treating genital warts at home:
If home remedies for HPV are not successful in treating the infection, your doctor may prescribe treatments such as electrocautery, cryotherapy, laser therapy, or surgical excision. Electorcautery involves the use of special tools to physically burn off the warts. Local anesthesia is used during this process to decrease the discomfort and pain. Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart till it falls off. Laser therapy is used when warts have spread over a large area or are big in size. The laser destroys the wart before removing it. During a surgical excision, your doctor will use special surgical instruments to cut off the warts.
Genital warts have no dietary cause and a diet alone, will be of no help in the treatment of genital warts. Following a healthy diet in combination with your treatment plan, could however improve the efficacy of the treatment. A diet for genital warts should include foods that are rich in folic acid and beta-carotene such as leafy vegetables like spinach and cabbage, mangoes, tomatoes, papaya, pineapple and figs. Avoid over-processed meals and junk food and keep your diet balanced with fresh produce, dairy, nuts and seeds.
Prophylactic HPV vaccines are under development and the results have been very encouraging this far, with a 90 to 100 percent success rate. Until the trials are completed however, the only way to prevent a genital wart infection is through abstinence or monogamous sexual relations with a single partner. If this is not possible, ensure that you use condoms even if there are no visible symptoms of any infection. Avoid smoking and make it a point to exercise regularly and eat a balanced healthy diet to boost your immune system.