Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is estimated that 79 million Americans have an active HPV infection at any given time, and another 14 million people are infected with HPV for the first time each year. This virus can cause genital warts or certain types of cancer, making it important to understand the risks and how to protect yourself. In this article, we will answer some common questions about HPV and genital warts, including how long after contact they usually appear, how to avoid getting them, and whether they can cause cancer.
How Common Are HPV 6 and 11?HPV 6 and 11 are two of the most common strains of the virus that cause genital warts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one percent of all sexually active men and women get genital warts every year. We see them in all people: pregnant women, young adults exploring their sexuality, older women and men.
How Long After Contact Do Warts Usually Appear?Warts usually appear one to four months after being infected with HPV.
However, the immune system can keep the virus under control for longer. It's important to note that not all people exposed to HPV 6 and 11 get warts. Some may never have any symptoms, as the body's immune system fights the virus.
Can HPV Warts Appear at Any Time in Life?Yes, HPV warts can appear at any time in life, even years after exposure.
This is because sometimes the virus is kept under control by the body's immune system for a long time before it causes symptoms. It's also possible for a person to be infected with more than one type of HPV at a time, including those that can cause cancer in the genital area.
How Can Sexually Active People Avoid Getting HPV Warts?Using condoms or “finger condoms” for manual stimulation consistently reduces the risk of acquiring or transmitting the virus that causes warts. It's also important to note that HPV infects cells that divide rapidly, so anywhere where there is a small trauma, tear, or abrasion, the body can pick up the virus and introduce it into cells.
Does the Number of Sexual Partners Increase Risk?Yes, people who have had more than 10 sexual partners in their lifetime are more likely to report a diagnosis of genital warts than those who have had one or two. Limiting the number of partners and using condoms are very important in reducing the risk.
Are HPV Warts Spread Only Through Genital Contact?No, you can transmit the virus from any wet source to another. The same types of warts that develop on the genitals can also grow in the mouth and throat and even on the inside of the eyelids.
But there has to be a source and usually you're going to carry the virus on your genitals.
Can HPV Warts Cause Cervical Cancer?The two types of HPV that cause most genital warts (types 6 and 11) do not cause cancer. However, some types of HPV that are associated with cancer have been found in genital warts. Having genital warts caused by non-cancer-causing strains of HPV doesn't mean you don't also have HPV which can cause cancer.
Are Genital Warts More of a Psychological Problem Than a Health Hazard?Genital warts can cause some physical discomfort such as burning and itching or even bleeding in an intimate area.
They can also be embarrassing for many people which is why it's important to understand how to protect yourself from getting them in the first place.