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Genital Warts or Condyloma

Please note that some of the language in this article is sexually explicit.

Genital Warts:

The virus responsible for genital warts is called human papilloma virus (HPV), also called Condyloma. There are over 70 different types of HPV’s of which the ones that cause genital warts are numbered 6 and 11. The virus infects the skin and mucous membranes such as are found in the vagina and anus. These warts can differ in appearance from white or pink raised lumps to larger flesh coloured cauliflower shaped groups, they can appear singularly or in groups.

The virus is passed from person to person via penetrative sexual intercourse and this includes oral and anal sex. The warts can affect all around the genital area as well as the anus and mouth. From the initial infection it can take from months to years before the warts begin appearing.

Usually the warts are painless but may occasionally itch, often they are quite difficult to see and can be concealed inside the vagina or anus. This is why they are often missed and the person may go undiagnosed and continue to infect others.
Certain strains of the HPV virus can infect the cervix (the neck of the womb) and cause changes in the cell structures there. These can and sometime do revert to normal cells but if untreated can lead onto cancer of the cervix. Rarely cancer of the penis can occur if treatment is not sort.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Visual diagnosis is usually the way external genital warts are diagnosed by your doctor the internal ones may require a solution of weak acetic acid to highlight them. Regular cervical smears w ill highlight any abnormal changes in the cervix.
The person infected with genital warts is fundamentally contagious for life and previous infections of other types of warts like ones on your hands does not mean you are immune. Treatment may remove the visible warts but the virus will always remain in the body.

Genital warts are not the same as the warts found on your hands and feet and therefore require different treatment. Treatments bought over the counter should not be used on genital warts.

Your doctor will be able to recommend a variety of treatments which will be appropriate for you:

  1. Cryotherapy – freezing the warts

  2. Electrosurgical excision – this is a hot loop of wire which cuts  them off

  3. Laser therapy – the wart evaporates

  4. Chemical therapy – this is painted the warts over a period of time and dissolves them

Unfortunately the reoccurrence rate is not consistent and the warts may well need more than one treatment.


Regrettably if you are not aware of carrying the HPV virus you could be part of the problem, but there are positive steps you can take to reduce your chances of contracting the virus.

  1. Always use condoms – they will offer a degree of protection.

  2. Regularly examine yourself to be aware of what is “normal” for you.

  3. Keep the amount sexual partners to a minimum

  4. Be aware of your partners sexual history

  5. Multiple partners means multiple chances for you to contract genital warts
  6. Do not engage in sexual relationships at an early age

HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) testing:

New tests are being developed which detect the types of human papilloma virus (HPV) that cause cancer. There are over 70 different types of HPV -Some types of HPV are linked to cervical cancer particularly numbers 16, 18, 30 and 33.

HPV Vaccine:

In 2005 a trial of a vaccine to prevent HPV went ahead with a group of 12,000 women some of whom were given a placebo and the others the vaccine, the research proved that 90% of the group were given the vaccine Gardasil and were protected against HPV infections and against HPV6 and 11 which cause genital warts. More trials are in progress and results will be presented over the next couple of years.

Web:  - society of sexual health advisers. The SSHA is a professional organisation for Health Advisers working in departments of Genito-Urinary Medicine and Sexual Health.

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