Warts are mild, benign tumors which develop due to the invasion of a virus known as human papilloma virus (HPV) in our skin. Warts are highly contagious - merely touching the affected portion and can accidentally spread the infection to other parts of your body. Warts can also be spread indirectly, by touching objects which came in contact with the infected skin of a person.
Different subtypes of HPV cause different kinds of warts. The common warts usually develop on the fingers, around the nails and at the back of the hands. You can develop plantar warts, which grow on the soles of the feet. Flat warts, can occur on any part of the body. And finally, we have genital warts, which develop on the genitals.
Genital warts, also known as herpes genitals, are small in appearance and often grow in large numbers around the genital or penis area. The most commmon cause of genital warts is sexual contact, either through oral, genital or anal sex with an infected person. Signs that a person has genital warts are evident. A wart may be seen on the tip or shaft of the penis, on the scrotum or anus and even in the mouth. In women, warts can occur on the outer and inner portion of the vaginal opening and also around the anus.
There is actually no cure for HPV infection, but there are ways to reduce or remove the visible warts, thereby reducing the tendency to spread the infection. This also reduces the related inflammation. Here are some medical treatments available for removal of visible genital warts.
- Cryotherapy. This therapy freezes the warts through a substance called cryoprobe (liquid nitrogen). It is the most common treatment, and is known as the first line of treatment because the response rate is good and it causes only a few side effects.
- Laser Treatment. This treatment is used for warts which grow continuously or repeatedly. The laser physically destroys the visible warts and may require administration of anesthesia prior to the treatment. This is not always advisable because of the cost and possible viral spread in the air due to the laser plumes. It can also cause skin scarring and prolonged healing time.
- Electrodessication. This technique uses electric current to remove the warts. Like laser treatment, this may require administration of local anesthesia and can possibly cause spreading of the virus through the smoke.
- Medication. The safest way to remove genital warts is by using existing medicines that are effective in treating genital warts. Some examples of these medicines are:
- Podophyllum resin. This is topically applied by the doctor.
- Podofilux. This medicine is topically applied and can be used safely at home.
- Trichloroacetic Acid. This is also topically applied but is not advisable due to the high percentage of recurrence. It may also cause a burning sensation.
- 5-Flourouracil. This is applied as cream and requires a long term treatment. It can also cause burning sensation.
- Imiquimod. This is a newly discovered treatment that is applied as a cream. Side effects may cause common local skin irritation.
Warts may occur in different ages, males or females, old or young people alike. We can never be sure whether where or when we will acquire this disease. Different treatments have been developed to be able to get rid of it and to prevent recurrence. But still, the most effective way to not be troubled by genital warts is to avoid getting HPV in the first place. And as doctors always say, "prevention is better than cure".