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Sexually Transmitted Disease Specialists

 Confidential and expert care                                                                                                                      703 532-1100

Genital Warts

Genital warts, or condyloma, are sexually transmitted infections caused by a virus known as the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are over 70 different strains of HPV.

HPV is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with a partner, or during sexual intercourse. It may spread even without intercourse, however. Infection may occur by contact with a visible wart, and possibly also from an area of skin with no visible wart (subclinical infection). After sex with an infected person, warts may take a few weeks to many months (or even years) to appear. Condoms help to prevent spreading of warts, but they only protect the area they cover. Warts can spread even when a condom is used, because any areas that the condom does not cover can transmit the virus. Since HPV may be present anywhere in the genital and anal area, condoms may not provide full protection.

Genital warts or condyloma are HPV-associated growths that appear around the genitals and anus, and sometimes in the vagina, rectum or urethra. They may be raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large, and may cluster together with a cauliflower-like appearance. They are painless and rarely cause discomfort. A subclinical HPV infection occurs when there are no warts visible, but microscopic changes in cells show evidence of the virus.

Genital warts are diagnosed by looking for them. Subclinical HPV infection is difficult to diagnose. However, if present on the cervix, it may show up on a Pap smear or swab of the cervix. Being infected with certain high-risk HPV strains may increase the risk of developing cancer of the penis or cancer of the cervix in the future.

Treatment removes visible warts, but does not eradicate the wart virus. Treatment involves removing the wart with applications of chemicals, freezing, or burning them off with electrocautery or laser. Each method may cause mild irritation and scarring.

Because the HPV virus may persist in normal-appearing cells, it is possible for warts to return after treatment. If the warts reappear, it does not necessarily mean that you have been reinfected. In most people, warts eventually resolve and do not reappear. This is thought to be due to the body's natural defenses modulating the HPV.

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine has been released and made available to the public. The HPV virus causes Genital Warts, but it has also been found to cause the majority of Cerivcal Cancer in women. This vaccine may help prevent millions of cases of dangerous HPV virus from spreading. We have the vaccine available at our medical center for immediate use.