Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). It is characterised by the appearance of small fleshy lumps around the genital area which are usually painless and do not pose a serious health risk, however many patients find them unpleasant.
Genital warts are extremely common, especially between the ages of 17 and 33. They are spread through sexual contact with an infected partner. This includes skin-to-skin contact, which means you do not need to have penetrative intercourse to become infected. They can spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex as well as through sharing sex toys.
Genital warts are caused by a type of HPV, usually either strain 6 or strain 11. HPV is a family of over 100 different viruses which can often cause no symptoms, although certain strains have been linked to cancer, most notably cervical cancer in women.
Using a condom during sex can lower your risk of becoming infected, although you could still contract the virus through the skin around the genital area. Once infected, the warts may not always be visible, but it is still possible to become infected even if there is no outbreak at that time.
Genital warts may not appear immediately after you have become infected with the STI and they sometimes appear internally, showing no outward symptoms. The only way to ensure you are not infected is to have regular STI tests if you are having unprotected sex.
When the symptoms appear, they can vary in shape and size but they will be located in or around a woman's vagina or labia and on or inside a man's foreskin. The fleshy bumps are painless although they can sometimes cause itchiness.
There is no way to guarantee you will not be infected with the STI, although using a condom during sex will limit your risk of contracting most sexually transmitted infections. There is a vaccine available against this strain of HPV, although its effectiveness may decrease over time.
Once you have contracted the virus, it cannot be cured, however it may lay dormant for months or even years. Outbreaks are thought to be partly caused by excessive alcohol consumption, fatigue, stress or genital friction.
Although the virus itself is incurable, the outbreaks can be treated and warts can be removed surgically or with medication. Surgical treatments are usually considered a last resort in cases where the warts are very large or if a woman is pregnant. Another option is trichloroacetic acid, which can be administered by doctors to burn off outbreaks.
You can buy over-the-counter medications which can sometimes help with the symptoms, although they are not always as effective as prescription treatments and can sometimes cause skin irritation.
Prescription creams are highly effective in helping to clear up an outbreak without resorting to surgery. The most common are Aldara, Warticon and Condyline.
Prescription creams are highly effective in helping to clear up an outbreak without resorting to surgery. The most common are Aldara, Warticon and Condyline which are all available to buy online at 121doc.
At 121doc we offer a discreet service which allows you to buy these treatments online after filling out a free online consultation. Once a medical professional has reviewed your case, you will be issued a prescription and the pharmacy will ship your order for free next day delivery.