Genital warts are one of the most common forms of sexually transmitted disease. These warts appear as small flesh-colored bumps that are raised and shaped like cauliflowers. Genital warts may start as tiny lesions that are approximately 2 millimeters in diameter. Then, they eventually grow and expand into bigger masses.
In men, genital warts develop on and around the scrotum, anus area, and penis shaft. In women, they are usually found in and out of the vagina, uterus, cervix, and around the anus. For both genders, genital warts may manifest around the throat and mouth areas especially when the individual has previously engaged in sexual intercourse with another infected person.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the virus that is responsible for genital warts. There are a total of 100 strains of HPV. However, only 30 strains can infect our genital region. These 30 strains are what we call genital HPV, which can affect approximately 50 percent of women and men who are sexually active.
Two types of HPV exist: low-risk and high-risk. High-risk HPV may bring about cancer of the vagina, cervix, anus, throat, or penis. This type of HPV is not related to the type that causes genital warts. Type 16 HPV is related to approximately half of all the cases of cervical cancer. Types 45, 31, 18, and 16 all together are related to 80 percent of the cases of cervical cancer.
Low-risk HPV is the one that leads to genital warts. To be specific, approximately 90 percent of the cases of genital warts are caused by types 11 and 6 of HPV. Low-risk HPV is often hard to detect since it does not manifest any symptoms. In fact, a lot of people are carriers of HPV but they are not aware of it. Thus, the risk of transmitting HPV becomes even higher. It would be for your own good if you undergo regular check-ups so that you would know whether or not you have the virus.
The most common method through which genital warts can be transferred from one person to another is through sexual intercourse with an infected person. Experts estimate that approximately 66 percent of those who engage in sex with an infected individual will have genital warts either through oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Childbirth is another way by which genital warts can be transmitted. When the infant passes through a woman’s infected birth canal, there is a possibility that he/she can develop warts inside his/her mouth and throat. This is called laryngeal papillomatosis.
The probability of genital warts occurring as well as other HPV-related illnesses are further increased by some risk factors. These risk factors include having many sex partners, becoming sexually active at an early age, having STDs in the past, and engaging in sexual intercourse with an individual even though you are not aware of his/her sexual history. The use of oral contraceptives such as birth control pills may also increase your chances of having genital warts because of decreased protected sexual intercourse.
Smoking, excessive stress, and alcohol consumption may also raise your chances of contracting genital warts. Moreover, a compromised immunity against diseases is a risk factor. Thus, those who have undergone physical trauma through surgery and other invasive procedures as well as those who have had serious diseases such as cervical cancer will most probably have genital warts.