Eliminate Toxins Faster with MyTea Magic | 2 part series
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Genital warts are contagious, fleshy growths in the genital or anal area. They are one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infection.
They are also known as venereal warts or condylomata acuminata. They are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), and they are a symptom of HPV.
Genital warts consist of fibrous overgrowths covered by a thickened, outer layer. They can appear around a man’s scrotum, anus, and penis, or a woman’s vulva, cervix, vagina, or anus.
They are usually benign, or non-cancerous, but some types can become cancerous in time.
In appearance, genital warts are often flesh-colored or gray swellings. If several cluster together, they may resemble a cauliflower. Some may be too small to be seen by the naked eye.
About 1 in 100 sexually active people in the United States have genital warts. Between 2011 and 2014, the prevalence of HPV was 7.3 percent amongst adults aged 18 to 69 years.
It is possible to have HPV without showing symptoms. Genital warts often appear about 3 months after infection. However, in some cases, there may be no symptoms for many years.
Fast facts on genital warts
- Genital warts are contagious.
- They are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infecting the skin.
- The biggest risk factor for genital warts is unprotected sex.
- Some genital warts respond well to topical medication.
- 1 in 100 sexually active people in the United States have genital warts.
Genital warts are highly contagious.
Author George Chernilevsky, own work
A topical cream can remove most genital warts. Topical means that medicine is applied directly to the skin.
Doctors will only treat patients who have visible warts. The type of treatment depends on:
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- the location of the warts
- the number of warts
- the appearance of the warts
The following treatments are effective for removing genital warts:
- Topical medication: A cream or liquid is applied directly onto the warts for several days each week. This may be administered at home or in a clinic. Treatment may continue for several weeks.
- Cryotherapy: The warts are frozen, often with liquid nitrogen. The freezing process causes a blister to form around the wart. As the skin heals, the lesion slides off, allowing new skin to appear. Sometimes, repeated treatments are needed.
- Electrocautery: An electric current is used to destroy the wart, generally under local anesthetic.
- Surgery: The wart is excised, or cut out. A local anesthetic will be used.
- Laser treatment: An intensive beam of light destroys the wart.
It is common for doctors to use more than one treatment at the same time.
Treatments are not painful but may sometimes cause soreness and irritation for up to 2 days. People who experience discomfort after treatment can take over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers for relief.
People who experience soreness may find that a warm bath helps to relieve discomfort. After a bath, the affected area must be dried completely. Patients should not use bath oils, soap, or creams until after the treatment is completed.
OTC treatments specified for non-genital warts are not suitable for the treatment of genital warts.
Genital warts will generally resolve without treatment. However, some presentations of genital warts grow and multiply if left alone.
Treating genital warts greatly reduces the risk of transmission.
Being prepared with sexual protection can keep genital warts at bay.
To avoid catching or spreading genital warts, it is important for sexually active people to take preventive steps.
These can include:
- abstinence from sexual contact
- using protection, such as a condom or dental dam
- women receiving the HPV vaccine
- openly informing partners about genital warts
- quitting smoking
It is crucial for sexually active people to practice safe sex. The genitals of either partner can seem to be HPV-free as no warts are present. However, the virus can still spread without visible symptoms.
Pap tests and genital warts
A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, is a procedure to test for cervical cancer in women. The test involves collecting cells from the woman’s cervix. Cervical cancer is a possible complication of HPV infection.
Women should have HPV vaccinations and regular pelvic exams and Pap tests. These can also detect cervical and vaginal changes that may be triggered by the onset of genital warts.
HPV vaccinations do not protect against all types of HPV. Women are advised to continue attending screenings after vaccination.
Genital warts, like other warts, are caused by over 100 types of HPV that infect the top layers of the skin. Only a small number of strains can cause genital warts.
Those that do cause genital warts are highly contagious and passed on through sexual contact with a person who has HPV. Other types of HPV do not carry this trait.
It is estimated that up to 65 percent of people who have sexual relations with a person who has genital warts will become infected.
What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?
Genitals warts are the work of the human papillomavirus. Find out more about how HPV functions by clicking here.
HPV can change the structure of infected cells and can lead to further complications.
Cancer: HPV infection is associated with cervical cancer, as well as cancer of the vulva, anus, penis, mouth, and throat. Not all HPV infections lead to cervical cancer, but it is crucial for a woman’s long-term health that she attends regular Pap screenings.
Pregnancy problems: There is a small risk that a mother may pass on genital warts during childbirth. Laryngeal papillomatosis can occur.
A newborn with laryngeal papillomatosis may have genital warts in the mouth. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may also cause genital warts to grow, bleed, or multiply.
The following will increase the risk of contracting genital warts:
- having unprotected sex
- having unprotected sex with many different people
- having sex with a person whose sexual history is unknown
- oral sex
- starting sexual relations at a young age
- having stress and other viral infections at the same time, such as HIV or herpes
A Pap smear is a clear method of diagnosing HPV.
A doctor can usually diagnose genital warts by looking at them.
The examination may involve looking inside the vagina or anus. On rare occasions, the doctor may take a biopsy of the wart.
People should go for a checkup if:
they have genital warts
the person with symptoms recently had unprotected sex with a new partner
the person with symptoms or their partner have had unprotected sex with an individual outside of the relationship
the partner of the person with symptoms advises that they have an STI
there are symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
the patient is pregnant or trying to conceive
The doctor or nurse may ask the patient to come back at a later date, even if no warts are detected. Visible warts may not appear immediately after infection.
Some genital warts are so small that they can only be detected with a colposcopic exam of the cervix and vagina or a Pap smear. A colposcope is a visual device used to examine the cervix in detail.
Genital warts are not dangerous, but they can indicate the present of HPV. Some types of HPV can lead to cancer. Removing the warts can help prevent transmission, but even if any visible warts go away with treatment, the virus may remain.
Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Most sexually active men and women being exposed to the virus at some point during their lifetime.
The virus is common in the United States and there are approximately 14 million newly diagnosed cases of human papillomavirus (HPV) annually.
There are different types of HPV. Some can lead to genital warts and others can cause some types of cancer. Each year, around 19,400 women and 12,100 men in the U.S. are affected by cancers that stem from HPV. Vaccines can protect against infection.
In this article, we will explain what HPV is, how it is passed between people, any symptoms that could occur, and information about treatment, vaccines, and prevention.
Fast facts on HPV
Here are some key points about human papillomavirus. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Most sexually active men and women will contract the HPV virus at some point during their lifetime.
- HPV can be spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
- It can result in genital warts and some types of cancer.
- Sometimes, HPV can be transmitted during birth to an infant causing genital or respiratory system infections.
- There is no cure for HPV but safe and effective vaccinations are recommended at the age of 11 to 12 years.
Salicylic acid is used to treat some warts.
Different types of HPV will have different symptoms. HPV viruses can lead to genital warts and cancer.
There is no treatment for the virus, but the symptoms can be treated.
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Prevention is through the HPV vaccine.
Warts that result from HPV will often resolve without treatment.
However, there are medications that can be applied to the skin to remove the wart itself; these include over-the-counter (OTC) salicylic acid for common warts.
Prescription medications include:
- Podophyllin (chemical applied by a doctor)
- Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara)
- Podofilox (Condylox)
- Trichloroacetic acid (chemical applied by a doctor)
In certain situations, surgical interventions may be necessary and include:
- Cryotherapy: This method uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the abnormal areas.
- Electrocautery: Electrical current is used to burn the abnormal areas.
- Laser therapy: A light beam removes unwanted tissue.
- Interferon injection: This is rarely used due to the high risk of side effects and cost.
- Surgical removal
It is important to speak with a doctor about which treatment is best, depending on the type and location of the wart being treated.
It is also important to note that, although warts and cellular changes may be removed or resolved, the virus can remain in the body and can be passed to others. There is no treatment to remove the virus from the body.
Routine Pap tests and other types of screening can provide an early diagnosis, if cancer develops. Measures can be taken to treat any cancer and prevent it from developing.
HPV may not cause symptoms at once, but they can appear years later. Some types can lead to warts, while others can cause cancer.
Common symptoms of some types of HPV are warts, especially genital warts.
Genital warts may appear as a small bump, cluster of bumps, or stem-like protrusions. They commonly affect the vulva in women, or possibly the cervix, and the penis or scrotum in men. They may also appear around the anus and in the groin.
They can range in size and appearance and be large, small, flat, or cauliflower shaped, and may be white or flesh tone.
Other warts associated with HPV include common warts, plantar, and flat warts.
Common warts – rough, raised bumps most commonly found on the hands, fingers, and elbows.
Plantar warts – described as hard, grainy growths on the feet; they most commonly appear on the heels or balls of the feet.
Flat warts – generally affect children, adolescents, and young adults; they appear as flat-topped, slightly raised lesions that are darker than normal skin color and are most commonly found on the face, neck, or areas that have been scratched.
Other types of HPV can increase the risk of developing cancer. These cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx, or the base of the tongue and tonsils. It may take years or decades for cancer to develop.
How to treat a wart
A wart is a small growth with a rough texture that can appear anywhere on the body.
HPV can infect anyone who is sexually active
HPV is a virus that is passed skin-to-skin through sexual intercourse or other forms of skin-to-skin contact of the genitals.
While most HPV infections are benign, causing warts on areas of the body including the hands, feet, and genitals, there are certain strains that put a person at a higher risk of developing certain types of cancers.
HPV can infect anyone who is sexually active; many times, infected individuals are asymptomatic, meaning they display no symptoms of the virus.
Although most HPV infections resolve themselves, sometimes, they can remain dormant and later infect a new or existing sexual partner.
HPV can be transmitted to the infant during birth; this can cause a genital or respiratory system infection.
It is important to note that the strains of HPV that cause warts are different from the group of HPV strains that cause cancer.
Some factors increase the risk of contracting the HPV virus.
- having a higher number of intimate partners
- having sex with someone who has had several intimate partners
- having a weakened immune system, for example, due to HIV or after having an organ transplant
- having areas of damaged skin.
- having personal contact with warts or surfaces where HPV exposure has occurred
What’s to know about HPV in men?
Most information about HPV focuses on women, but it can also cause health problems in men.
If warts or lesions are visible, a doctor can generally make a diagnosis of HPV during a visual inspection. However, additional tests may be needed to confirm the presence of HPV.
When should I get tested for HPV?
Tests to evaluate for HPV or HPV-related cervical cellular changes include a Pap smear, a DNA test, and the use of acetic acid (vinegar).
A Pap smear is a test that collects cells from the surface of the cervix or the vagina and will reveal any cellular abnormalities that may lead to cancer.
The use of a DNA test will evaluate for the high-risk types of HPV and is recommended for women 30 and older in conjunction with a Pap smear.
There is also a DNA test for HPV, which can be used alone without the need for concurrent Pap testing starting at age 25.
At times, a biopsy of any abnormal areas may be necessary.
Currently, there is no test available for men to check for HPV; diagnosis is made primarily on visual inspection. In certain situations, if men or women have a history of receptive anal sex, it may be advisable to speak with a doctor regarding the possibility of undergoing an anal Pap smear
There are three HPV vaccines currently on the market.
Measures that can reduce the risk of contracting HPV include:
- having the HPV vaccine
- practicing safe sex
- practicing abstinence or being in a monogamous sexual relationship
- not having sex while there are visible genital warts
It is hard to prevent common warts. If a wart is present, people should avoid picking it or biting finger nails. For plantar warts, it is recommended that shoes or sandals be worn in public areas such as pools and locker rooms.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend vaccination at the age of 11 to 12 years, to reduce the risk of cervical and other cancers developing in future.
The vaccine is given in two doses, 6 to 12 months apart. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males up to the age of 21 years and females up to 26 years who did not receive the vaccination at a younger age. Gay and bisexual men are encouraged to have the vaccination up to the ages of 26 years.
Currently, there are three HPV vaccines on the market: Gardasil, Cervarix, and Gardasil 9. Speak with a doctor to see if vaccination is appropriate.
Latest research into HPV
Medical News Today is a leading publisher of medical research. All of our latest news about HPV can be found in our HPV news section.
Cervical cancer affects the entrance to the uterus (womb). The cervix is the narrow part of the lower uterus, often referred to as the neck of the womb.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 12,280 diagnoses of cervical cancer will be made by the end of 2017 in the United States. More than 4,000 women in the U.S. will die from cervical cancer this year.
The majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV (human papillomavirus). The HPV vaccine successfully prevents HPV and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the vaccine for all preteens.
Fast facts on cervical cancer
Here are some key points about cervical cancer. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- In America, more than 11,000 women are diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer each year.
- Having many sexual partners or becoming sexually active early is a risk factor.
- Survival rates are good if cervical cancer is caught early.
- Symptoms include bleeding between periods and after sex.
Symptoms and early signs
HPV can lead to cervical cancer.
In the early stages of cervical cancer, a person may experience no symptoms at all. As a result, women should have regular cervical smear, or Pap, tests.
A Pap test is preventive. It aims not to detect cancer but to reveal any cell changes that indicate that cancer could develop, so that early action can be taken.
The most common symptoms of cervical cancer are:
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- bleeding between periods
- bleeding after sexual intercourse
- bleeding in post-menopausal women
- discomfort during sexual intercourse
- smelly vaginal discharge
- vaginal discharge tinged with blood
- pelvic pain
These symptoms can have other causes, including infection. Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms should see a doctor.
Working out the stage of a cancer is important as it helps decide what kind of treatment can be effective.
Staging aims to assess how far the cancer has developed and whether it has reached nearby structures or more distant organs.
There are different ways of describing the stages, but a 4-stage system is commonly used.
Stage 0: Precancerous cells are present.
Stage 1: Cancer cells have grown from the surface into deeper tissues of the cervix, and possibly into the uterus and to nearby lymph nodes
Stage 2: The cancer has is now beyond the cervix and uterus, but not as far as the walls of the pelvis or the lower part of the vagina. It may or may not affect nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 3: Cancer cells are present in the lower part of the vagina or the walls of the pelvis, and it may be blocking the ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the bladder. It may or may not affect nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 4: The cancer affects the bladder or rectum and is growing out of the pelvis. It may or may not affect the lymph nodes. Later in stage 4, it will spread to distant organs, including the liver, bones, lungs, and lymph nodes.
It is important to undergo screening and to see a doctor if any symptoms occur, as early treatment increases the chance of survival.
Cancer is the result of the uncontrolled division and growth of abnormal cells. Most of the cells in our body have a set lifespan and when they die, new cells are produced to replace them.
Abnormal cells can have two problems:
- they do not die
- they continue dividing
This results in an excessive accumulation of cells, which eventually forms a lump, otherwise known as a tumor. Scientists are not completely sure why cells become cancerous.
However, there are some risk factors that are known to increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. These risk factors include:
HPV (human papillomavirus): A sexually transmitted virus. There are more than 100 different types of HPV, at least 13 of which can cause cervical cancer.
Having many sexual partners or becoming sexually active early: Cervical cancer-causing HPV types are nearly always transmitted as a result of sexual contact with an infected individual. Women who have had many sexual partners generally have a higher risk of becoming infected with HPV. This raises their risk of developing cervical cancer.
Smoking: This increases the risk of cervical and other cancers.
A weakened immune system: The risk is higher in those with HIV or AIDS, and people who have undergone a transplant, necessitating the use of immunosuppressive medications.
Long-term mental stress: High levels of stress over a sustained period may make it harder to fight off HPV. A study published in 2016 supported this. The reseachers found that: “Women who reported self-destructive coping strategies, like drinking, smoking cigarettes or taking drugs when stressed, were more likely to develop an active HPV infection.”
Giving birth at a very young age: Women who give birth before the age of 17 years are significantly more likely to develop cervical cancer, compared with women who have their first baby after the age of 25 years.
Several pregnancies: Women who have had at least three children in separate pregnancies are more likely to develop cervical cancer, compared with women who have never had children.
Birth control pills: Long-term use of some common contraceptive pills slightly raises a woman’s risk.
Other sexually transmitted diseases (STD): Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.
Socio-economic status: Rates appear to be higher in areas where income are low.
What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?
Find out more about HPV and how to prevent it
Cervical cancer treatment options include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or combinations of these.
Deciding on the kind of treatment depends on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer, as well as the patient’s age and state of health.
Treatment for early-stage cervical cancer, when it is confined to the cervix, has a good success rate. The further the cancer has spread out of the area it originated from, the lower the success rate tends to be.
Early stage cervical cancer treatment options
Surgery is commonly used when the cancer is confined to the cervix. Radiotherapy may be used after surgery if a doctor believes there may still be cancer cells inside the body.
Radiotherapy may also be used to reduce the risk of recurrence (cancer coming back). If the surgeon wants to shrink the tumor to make it easier to operate, the person may receive chemotherapy although this is not a very common approach.
Treatment for advanced cervical cancer
When the cancer has spread beyond the cervix, surgery is not usually an option.
Advanced cancer is also referred to as invasive cancer because it has invaded other areas of the body. This type of cancer requires more extensive treatment, which will typically involve either radiotherapy or a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
In the later stages of cancer, palliative therapy is administered to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Radiotherapy is commonly used to treat advanced forms of cervical cancer. Around 40% of all cancer patients undergo some form of radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy is also known as radiation therapy, radiation oncology, and XRT. It involves the use of beams of high-energy X-rays or particles (radiation) to destroy cancer cells. Radiation that is aimed at the pelvic area may cause the following side effects, some of which may not emerge until after the treatment is over:
- upset stomach
- bladder irritation
- narrowing of the vagina
- interrupted menstrual cycle
- early menopause
Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals (medication) to treat any disease. In this context, it refers to the destruction of cancer cells.
Chemotherapy for cervical cancer, as with most other cancers, is used to target cancer cells that surgery cannot or did not remove, or to help the symptoms of people with advanced cancer.
Side effects of chemotherapy can vary, and they depend on the specific drug being used. Below is a list of the more common side effects:
- hair loss
- early menopause
Cervical cancer clinical trials
Participating in a clinical trial may be the best treatment option for some people. Many of the current treatments that are available are the results of clinical trials.
Clinical trials are an integral part of the cancer research process. They are done to determine how safe and effective new treatments are, and whether they are better than existing ones. People who participate in clinical trials are contributing to cancer research and innovation.
The stage at which cervical cancer is diagnosed can help indicate the chances that a person will survive for at least 5 years more years.
- Stage 1: In early stage 1, the chance of surviving at least 5 years is 93 percent, and in late stage 1, it is 80 percent.
- Stage 2: In early stage 2, the rate is 63 percent, falling to 58 percent by the end of stage 2.
- Stage 3: During this stage, the chances fall from 35 percent to 32 percent.
- Stage 4: There is a 15 to 16 percent chance of surviving another 5 years.
These are average survival rates and do not apply to everyone. In some cases, treatment is successful up to stage 4.
There are a number of measures that can be taken to reduce the chances of developing cervical cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
The link between the development of cervical cancer and some types of HPV is clear. If every female adheres to current HPV vaccination programs, cervical cancer could potentially be reduced.
Safe sex and cervical cancer
The HPV vaccine only protects against two HPV strains. There are other strains which can cause cervical cancer. Using a condom during sex helps protect from HPV infection.
Regular cervical screening will make it much more likely that signs of cancer are picked up early and dealt with before the condition can develop, or spread too far. Screening does not detect cancer but detects changes to the cells of the cervix.
Having fewer sexual partners
The more sexual partners a woman has, the higher the risk of transmitting the HPV virus, which can lead to a higher likelihood of developing cervical cancer.
Delaying first sexual intercourse
The younger a female is when she has her first sexual intercourse, the higher the risk of HPV infection. The longer she delays it, the lower her risk.
Women who smoke and are infected with HPV have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer than people who do not.
The earlier cervical cancer is diagnosed, the more successful treatment for it can be.
Women aged 30 years and over are advised to undergo a regular Pap, or cervical smear, test, to detect early signs of cancer of the uterus and cervix. HPV testing can be done at the same time.
Cervical smear test
In the U.S. over 11,000 women receive a diagnosis of invasive cervical cancer each year, and around 4,000 die as a result of this disease.
Most of these deaths could be prevented through regular cervical screening.
Screening does not detect cancer, but it looks for abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. If left untreated, some abnormal cells can eventually develop into cancer.
HPV DNA testing
This test determines whether the patient is infected with any of the HPV types that are the most likely to cause cervical cancer. It involves collecting cells from the cervix for lab testing.
The test can detect high-risk HPV strains in cell DNA before any cervix cell abnormalities appear.
If there are signs and symptoms of cervical cancer, or if the Pap test reveals abnormal cells, additional tests may be recommended.
- Colposcopy: A visual examination of the vagina using a speculum and a coloscope, a lighted magnifying instrument.
- Examination under anesthesia (EUA): The doctor can examine the vagina and cervix more thoroughly.
- Biopsy: A small section of tissue is taken under general anesthesia.
- Cone biopsy: Small, cone-shaped section of abnormal tissue is taken from the cervix for examination.
- LLETZ: Diathermy, using a wire loop with an electric current, is used to remove abnormal tissue. The tissue is sent to the lab to be checked.
- Blood tests: A blood cell count can help identify liver or kidney problems.
- CT scan: A barium liquid may be used to show up any abnormalities.
- MRI: Special types of MRI may be able to identify cervical cancer in its early stages.
- Pelvic ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves create an image of the target area on a monitor.
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