Genital warts are often a cause of great distress for people who have suddenly realised they have them. So in this post I wanted to clear up some of the myths that surround them. Genital warts are becoming less common thankfully due to the HPV vaccine. However many people still “suffer” from them. When I say suffer what I mean is mental anguish, as they rarely cause any physical symptoms. Warts, for the most part, are a cosmetic issue. They don’t look good, they don’t look normal and because of this they can significantly impact on a persons sex life. Often patients feel dirty and just want them gone. So here are a feel facts that may help people better understand warts.
1) Warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), there ware over 160 different types of HPV. The most common types to cause genital warts are 6 and 11.
2) The type that cause genital warts are different to the type that causes cervical cancer, therefore you do not need to have more frequent cervical smears if you have genital warts.
3) Most sexually active people acquire HPV (90%), however most people go about oblivious to the fact that they have or had it. This of course raises the issues of “How did I get it if my partner doesn’t have it?” Well, most likely your most recent new partner in the last 3-6 mths does have it, but they are in the 90% of people that are oblivious to their HPV carriage. Only 10% of people that have HPV develop genital warts, this is down to a multitude of factors, which for the most part we don’t understand. Only smoking has been linked, but there are plenty of non-smokers who develop genital warts.
4) Some people come to me and say “Well my partner got tested and his screen came back clear so now he thinks I’m having an affair, and I’m not.” There is no test for HPV that your boyfriend took that can tell him if he carries HPV. Genital warts are diagnosed by their presence visually. HPV testing is not carried out as part of standard STI screens.
5) Should we use condoms? This is a tricky one. It is recommended you use condoms for new partners whilst you have genital wars but it is not guaranteed to fully protect them. If you are in a long term relationship then more than likely your partner has HPV but is one of the 90% who is unaware so condoms won’t change anything.
6) How do I treat them. We can do a combination of cryotherapy (freezing them off with liquid nitrogen) and home treatment. Both are effective. Most people can expect to get rid of warts by 6 weeks, some take longer, some shorter. 50% of those treated will never see the warts again and 50% they will recur and need further treatment.
7) Is this something I have for life? No, whilst no treatment can get rid of HPV, your own bodies immune system will clear HPV in 2-3 years.
So the bottom line is, come and see us, all warts are is excess skin in an “embarrassing” location. Most are easily gotten rid so don’t worry in silence come and chat to us today.