It is possible for anyone who has sex to become infected by human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts. Almost 50 percent of people who have sex have had an HPV infection, and it occurs most commonly before the age of 30.
But not everyone who gets an HPV infection develops genital warts. A majority of people never develop these warts as the body’s immune system fights the virus. A majority of people get rid of the virus in a few years and are not contagious any longer.
Individuals with a weakened immune system may be unable to fight the virus. Genital warts grow when the body cannot fight HPV. An individual’s immune system may become weak from conditions such as AIDS or cancer. Certain medications, such as those to prevent organ rejection, also cause a weakened immune system.
Research indicates that smokers experience a higher risk of developing genital warts in comparison to non-smokers, but it is not clear why.
At times, a child gets genital warts. In exceptional cases, an infected mother can pass the virus to her infant during childbirth. Warts may not manifest immediately. Genital warts in a child can indicate sexual abuse as well.
Suncoast Skin Solutions, led by board certified dermatologist Dr. Christopher Ewanowski, provides advanced dermatology treatments to patients in Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Sarasota, Palm Harbor, Central Florida, Florida, and surrounding locations.
What causes genital warts?
Genital warts spread from an individual who has HPV to another person in the following ways:
- Sex (vaginal, anal, or oral)
- Genital contact (genitals touch)
- Childbirth (from infected mother to infant)
Genital warts may not appear until weeks or months following sex with an infected individual.
The complications associated with genital warts may include:
There has been shown to be a close link between cervical cancer and genital HPV infection. Specific forms of HPV are also associated with cancer of the anus, cancer of the penis, cancer of the vulva, and cancer of the mouth and throat.
Human papillomavirus infection does not always cause cancer. However, it is still vital for women to have regular Pap tests, especially if they have been infected with high-risk forms of HPV.
Problems during Pregnancy
Genital warts may lead to issues during pregnancy. Warts could become large, making it challenging to urinate. Warts on the vaginal wall may impact the ability of the vaginal tissues to stretch during childbirth. Large warts in the vagina or on the vulva can bleed when stretched during childbirth.
In rare cases, a baby born to a mother with genital herpes may develop warts in their throat. The baby may require surgery to ensure that their airway is clear.
The use of a condom each time a person engages in sex can significantly decrease the risk of contracting genital warts. While condoms can reduce the risk, it cannot entirely eliminate it. A person can still become infected with genital warts.
A vaccine called Gardasil protects against four strains of HPV that leads to cancer and is used to prevent genital warts. The US Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine known as Gardasil 9 in 2014, which protects against nine strains of HPV.
Another vaccine, known as Cervarix, protects against cervical cancer but does not offer protection from genital warts. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine vaccination boys and girls aged between 11 and 12 years.
Dr. Ewanowski’s skin care clinic receives patients from Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Sarasota, Palm Harbor, Central Florida, Florida, and nearby areas for dermatologic as well as medical spa procedures.
SunCoast Skin Solutions Dermatology offices are located in Tampa / Hillsborough, St. Petersburg / Pinellas County, Brandon, Lutz (2 locations), Winter Haven, Largo, Riverview, Brooksville, Ocala, Largo at Bardmoor, Daytona Beach, Sarasota, and Palm Harbor, Florida. Contact us at 1-844-786-3376 or click here.