When the human papillomavirus (HPV) enters the skin, often through an existing cut, blister, or other opening, it causes uncontrolled cell growth that produces rough, grainy bumps on the skin's surface. These tumors covered with dry, scaly skin can be genital warts, which are soft bumps that appear on the genitals and can cause pain, discomfort, and itching. Visible genital warts can be psychologically and physically distressing for patients. Symptoms can vary from person to person and include pain, itching, burning, irritation on clothing, and sometimes bleeding.
Genital warts often occur as a single growth and sometimes as a group of multiple growths. Most of the time, genital warts are painless. In some cases, they can cause some degree of itching, burning during urination, and vaginal pain. Genital warts are caused by several strains of HPV and are spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity.
Between 40 and 60% of untreated warts will resolve spontaneously in 9 to 12 months but many patients suffer from psychological disorders due to the presence of warts and require intervention to eradicate them. It is recommended that women with genital warts and who have not yet been vaccinated receive the quadrivalent HPV vaccine (3 doses at 0, 2 and 6 months).
New Treatments for Genital WartsNew treatments for external genital warts may reduce treatment pain and the number of office visits. Imiquimod and podophyllotoxin are two new treatments for external genital warts that are less painful and can be applied by patients at home. In most cases, treatment isn't necessary if your genital warts are small and you don't have any serious symptoms.
If you have a vulva, your doctor may also need to perform a pelvic exam since genital warts can appear deep in the body. When looking for podophyllin, you'll remember hearing about some new topical treatments for genital warts that are more practical and less toxic.
Talking Openly About Genital WartsTalking openly about your condition can help protect your partner from also getting an HPV infection and genital warts. When and how to treat genital warts is a decision that the patient and doctor must make together.
To check if there are warts themselves, the gynecologist can visually identify them on the outside and inside of the genitals. Treatment for genital warts can take several weeks to be effective depending on the type of treatment.