Jan 2009

Genital Warts

Genital warts are very common.

They are due to infection with the wart virus, also called the human papilloma virus or HPV. This virus is also responsible for common warts, such as those found on the hands, but there are over 50 different types of HPV.

How do you get genital warts?

The wart virus is transmitted by skin contact. It can therefore be passed on by any close sexual contact. Men, or women, who have had many partners, or a recent change of partner, are at particular risk of developing sexually transmitted infections (STI). Most people who are infected with the wart virus do not have any obvious warts.

In a longstanding relationship, genital warts are not evidence of infidelity; the wart virus has a long incubation period, and it can be many months between being infected and the warts appearing.

How are genital warts diagnosed?

Genital warts vary in appearance, from small flat bumps to large pink cauliflower-like lumps. They may be single or multiple, and usually feel rough to touch.

An experienced doctor or nurse will usually be able to diagnose genital warts just by their appearance. An internal examination may be performed.

When people don’t have obvious warts there is no way of telling whether or not wart virus is present. Sometimes wart virus infection can be picked up on a cervical smear.

How are genital warts treated?

Various methods of treatment may be used, depending on the type and size of the warts:

  • A paint or cream, which may be applied at your local GUM clinic or at home
  • The warts may be frozen or burnt off. Warts can be stubborn, and treatment may take several weeks
  • Large warts may be tied off

You should use condoms with your partner, to prevent the infection being passed back and forward between you. Remember that condoms may not protect you from contact with all affected areas.

Because the wart virus can be sexually transmitted, it is important to have a check –up for other STI’s.

Will the warts come back?

If the warts have not recurred within 3 months or so after the treatment, they are likely to do so. Recurrences can be due to:

  • Persistence of the virus in the skin
  • Re-infection from your current partner
  • Infection from a new partner

You should use condoms for at least 3 months after the warts have gone.

Always wear a condom with a new sexual partner.

What next?

For more information contact us: 01202-257478 or
email: overtherainbow2@dchft.nhs.uk

At Over The Rainbow staff are present Tuesday - Friday, 10am to 5pm , Bournemouth and at other venues throughout the county.

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