Human papilloma virus (HPV) has caused genital warts to develop since the early part of the 20th century. In the late 1980s, the human papillomavirus was identified as the cause of these warts.
In the United States, the majority of people diagnosed with genital warts are men who have sex with men, with the virus affecting one in four men who have sex with men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Genital warts are not contagious and do not spread to other people. However, they can cause pain and discomfort for some people.
What are the symptoms of genital warts?
Symptoms of genital warts can develop anywhere on the body. They can also occur on the genitals.
In some cases, genital warts can cause an unusual discharge. However, genital warts usually do not cause any symptoms.
Symptoms of genital warts can vary in intensity. For some people, genital warts can cause:
If you find genital warts on your genitals, you should see your doctor.
What are the risk factors for developing genital warts?
Genital warts are not contagious. However, HPV does pass from person to person.
HPV can pass from a person who has genital warts to a person who does not have genital warts.
Some people are more likely to develop genital warts than others. These risk factors include:
- Having a penis
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Having sex without a condom or other barrier method
- Having a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- Having unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Having a skin condition, such as eczema
How is genital warts diagnosed?
If you are experiencing symptoms of genital warts, your doctor can help determine the cause.
Your doctor may perform a physical examination. They may also collect a sample of your skin for testing.
A skin sample may be collected using a cotton swab. If you have a skin condition, your doctor may ask you to swab your skin.
Your doctor may also perform a biopsy. During this procedure, your doctor will take a small tissue sample and send it to a laboratory for testing.
How is genital warts treated?
Treatment for genital warts is dependent on which type of warts you have.
Common genital warts can be treated with a medication called imiquimod. This medication can help clear the warts. It can also help prevent new warts from developing.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend a treatment called cryotherapy. This procedure involves freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen. It can be painful.
Cryotherapy is typically recommended for genital warts that are not causing pain or discomfort.
How can I prevent genital warts?
HPV can pass through sex. However, the HPV virus does not spread from person to person. Therefore, it is not possible to prevent genital warts through sexual activity.
However, you can take steps to reduce the risk of HPV from spreading to other people. These steps include:
- Using a condom during sex
- Using a dental dam during oral sex
- Not sharing sex toys or other objects during sex
- Using a barrier method during vaginal, anal, or oral sex
- Not sharing sex toys or other objects during genital, anal, or oral sex
- Not having oral sex with multiple partners
- Practicing safe sex
- Not having sex with people who are HIV-positive
These steps are generally recommended for people who are not at risk of HPV.
If you have multiple sexual partners, it is important to practice safe sex. This is especially true if you have a skin condition, such as eczema.
You should also not have sex with someone who is HIV-positive.
When should I see my doctor?
Genital warts are not usually a cause for concern. However, they can be uncomfortable and cause pain and discomfort.
If you are experiencing symptoms of genital warts or think you may have HIV, you should see your doctor.
You should also see your doctor if you have multiple sexual partners or have a skin condition.
Your doctor can help determine the best treatment for genital warts.
What can I do at home?
You can take some steps to prevent genital warts. First, you should practice safer sex. This means avoiding sex with people who are HIV-positive.
Second, you should avoid sharing sex toys or other items with other people. Your doctor may also recommend that you avoid sex with someone who has a skin condition.
What to ask your doctor?
If you have a skin condition, such as eczema, you may be more likely to develop genital warts.
Most people with a skin condition are able to avoid developing genital warts by avoiding sex. However, it is also important to practice safer sex.
You should also ask your doctor about using imiquimod or cryotherapy to treat genital warts. Be aware of the potential side effects of these treatments.
You should also ask your doctor about using a condom during sex. This will help prevent the spread of HPV.
What is the outlook for people who have genital warts?
Treatment for genital warts may clear the warts. However, genital warts may return.
In most cases, genital warts will not spread to other people. However, it is important to practice safer sex to prevent the spread of HPV.
If you have sex without a condom or other barrier method, your risk of HPV from spreading to other partners is increased.
When to get medical help?
If you are experiencing symptoms of HIV or other STIs, you should see your doctor.
Genital warts can become painful and cause discomfort. They can also be embarrassing.
Genital warts often disappear on their own without treatment. However, genital warts can return after treatment.
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