Genital Warts are due to human papillomavirus (HPV). They are a very common problem and are seen frequently in Omaha dermatology clinics. Patients are often quite upset when diagnosed with genital warts (aka condyloma acuminata). This is because they may feel both distressed and embarrassed by their condition. Much of this has to do with the apparent stigma of feeling labeled as having what was previously referred to as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Now such conditions are referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STI).
Genital Warts HPV Symptoms & Treatments
However, though HPV in the genital area is usually transmitted by sexual contact, it should not be considered nearly as taboo as other sexually transmitted conditions which are much more uncommon. In fact, more than 75% of sexually active adults will carry the HPV virus at some point during their lifetimes. It is estimated that nearly 80 million people in the US are infected with HPV.
Genital Warts HPV Symptoms
Though most people who have genital HPV infection do not have any signs or symptoms, other individuals may develop warts or more rarely certain types of cancer in the area. There are several factors that affect whether a person with an HPV infection will even have any spots on their skin. First, there are several different types of the HPV virus. Some of these more commonly cause warts and some can cause certain types of cancer including cervical cancer or penile cancer.
Also, our immune systems can affect how we show signs of HPV infection. Some of us have immune systems that are better at keeping the virus infections in check, and those individuals may not have any spots showing even when they have this infection. In contrast, other people who have an immune system which is less effective at controlling the virus may have warts.
Aging and certain immune suppressant medications are two other factors that can reduce a person’s immunity, making them more prone to exhibiting signs of HPV infection. The best dermatologists in Omaha know that for these reasons in long-term couples, one of the partners may show signs of HPV infection whereas the other may never show any signs of it even though they both may be infected with the virus.
In some cases, there may be a long lag period between the initial exposure to HPV and showing spots due to the infection. In other words, it may take a long time from when you pick up the virus until you actually have warts show up on your skin. Keep in mind that there is no test available to tell if someone has HPV. Also, the diagnosis of genital warts is generally made by examining the spots themselves, instead of performing any sort of test on them.
Genital Warts HPV Treatments
For genital warts, there are numerous treatments available. In our clinics at Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands in Omaha & Council Bluffs, we have extensive experience using both main categories of treatment including surgical treatment and medical treatment.
Surgical treatments for general warts are the most commonly used therapies. Of all types of surgery, cryosurgery is often the best surgery for warts. This involves freezing the visible warts with liquid nitrogen. Though the treatment does not affect the overall infection with HPV, it does help in most cases to clear out the visible skin spots.
There are also a few different FDA-approved topical treatments that can be applied to the warts. The most frequently used of these is known as Imiquimod (Aldara or Zyclara). Though there is no cure for HPV infection, these treatments can be very effective at reducing or eliminating warts. They may need to be repeated periodically for any warts that are stubborn or new ones that arise over time.
Genital Warts HPV Prevention
Though HPV infection cannot be cured, it can be prevented. There are two main ways that preventative steps can be taken.
Safe Sex Practices
Having more sexual partners in one’s lifetime certainly increases the risk, as it increases one’s exposure to other potentially infected individuals. On the converse, fewer sexual partners means fewer exposures and less risk for HPV. Use of condoms can also have benefits, but unfortunately, they do not completely eliminate contact with some areas within the genital region, therefore HPV can still be spread as it is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact.
What’s even more important is that a vaccine for HPV (Gardasil) was developed and first brought to market in 2006. This vaccine has been refined and improved and now covers for 9 different types of HPV including ones that can cause genital cancers and genital warts. It is generally available through primary care providers and specialty pharmacies. Recently the FDA has expanded the indication for this vaccine and it now is approved for individuals up to the age of 45.
HPV Is Common
It’s important to remember that HPV is incredibly common. When diagnosed with genital warts, one need not be embarrassed. Not only is condition very common, it can be treated and generally does not lead to serious consequences. These treatments treat the warts themselves, but science hasn’t yet given us a treatment to help clear the HPV infection itself. However, the vaccine may prevent the infection in individuals who aren’t yet carriers.
Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands | Best Dermatologist Omaha & Council Bluffs, IA | Board Certified Dermatologists
We hope this information is helpful to you for better understanding this very common condition. If we may be of any further assistance, feel free to contact us for a consultation at any of our Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands clinics in Omaha, Council Bluffs or the surrounding communities. For any information or to make an appointment please contact us today.