Genital warts are one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections in the UK.

In this article:

What are genital warts?

Symptoms

Causes

Diagnosis

Treatment

How Chemist Online can help

Advice & Support

What are genital warts?
For many people, genital warts can be an embarrassing condition. This means that they fail to seek medical treatment. This is a pity as genital warts – unsightly growths of skin around the genital area and sometimes the anus – can be easily treated, with symptoms gradually clearing up in time.

Most commonly occurring in people under 25, genital warts can develop in both men and women. A dangerous misconception about genital warts is that if someone who is in a committed relationship suddenly develops the condition, this is in no way an ‘indication’ that they must have been unfaithful to their partner (to have become infected). It could simply be that a previous partner from years before was infected, but the infection had simply lain dormant for a long time, before any symptoms of genital warts appeared at all.

Symptoms
Symptoms of genital warts include small, fleshy growths which can appear around the genital and anal areas. Although they are generally painless they can become itchy and inflamed. This can then lead to bleeding.

Important note: It is possible for women to develop cervical cancer through having the genital warts infection; this is because the virus which causes genital warts (the papilloma virus) may be linked to changes in the cells in the cervix. This is thought to put women at risk of developing cervical cancer in later years.

Causes
Genital warts are passed on through sexual contact (mainly by people who have several sexual partners or those who do not practise safe sex). Vaginal, anal and oral sex as well as the sharing of sex toys can all lead to the development of genital warts. The human papilloma virus is passed on from one infected person to another. However, it is possible to carry the virus, but to have no visible symptoms at all. This is why, although the condition is one of the most common of all sexually transmitted infections seen at clinics, many people are oblivious to the fact that they are infected with the virus and so could potentially pass it on to any sexual partners they may have.

Diagnosis
If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, or if you have had sexual intercourse with someone who you suspect may have genital warts, it is important to make an appointment to see your GP immediately. Alternatively, you can also go to your local Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Clinic or Family Planning Clinic for tests. Your visit can be confidential if you wish, and you may not have to give your real name.

After taking your medical history and asking you some questions about your symptoms, your GP will make a further assessment by carrying out a physical examination. Tests which may be used in order to establish a confirmed diagnose may include a swab of your infected areas (using a special acetic acid), and/or a blood test. You may also be asked to provide a urine sample on the day.

Where diagnosis proves particularly difficult it may be arranged that you have a small biopsy. This is where a tiny sample of tissue from your infected area will be taken and then sent away to a laboratory for tests.

Note: As we have seen, it is possible to have the genital warts papilloma virus without experiencing any symptoms at all. This is why it is very important that, if you do receive a confirmed diagnosis that you have genital warts, you should suggest to your partner or any previous sexual partners that they too arrange to see their GP or to go to their local Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Clinic or Family Planning Clinic for tests.

Treatment
Although the papilloma virus which causes the genital warts infection can never be fully eradicated from your body once you have become infected, there are a range of treatments which can help clear up symptoms completely – although the actual recovery process can take a long time.

Treatments for genital warts can be highly effective, with the symptoms clearing up completely. The type of treatment you receive may depend upon the severity of your condition and if you are also suffering from other sexually transmitted diseases or infections at the time.

For those with genital warts and no other conditions, the following range of treatments is available:

Cream or liquid treatments – These are applied to your genital warts either at your GP’s surgery, your local (or nearest) Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) Clinic, or at home. This procedure is not necessarily painful, but you may feel a little discomfort.

Laser treatment – This is where a high intensity laser beam is used to burn your genital warts off.

Surgery – Under a local or general anaesthetic at your local (or nearest) hospital, your genital warts will be removed during a quick procedure.

In rare cases, a special drug formulated to fight the papilloma virus is injected into the genital wart(s).

Important Note: if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, it is essential that you tell the doctor as this can determine the type of treatment recommended for you.

How Chemist Online can help
Through this website we have a range of treatments and contraceptive products which can help promote sexual wellbeing and protect you from becoming infected with a sexually transmitted infection.

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This information and advice is not intended to replace the advice of your GP or chemist. Chemist Online is also not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based upon the content of the Chemist Online website. Chemist Online is also not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites.

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