Genital warts are tiny and cauliflower-like lesions or skin growths which can affect anogenital regions. The major cause behind a genital wart is the presence of HPV (Human Papilloma) virus. This virus is highly contagious and is usually transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person. This virus is also associated with the initial stages of anus cancer, vulva cancer, and penis cancer. There are numerous types of HPV viruses but the ones responsible for genital warts are the Type 6 and Type 11. These warts affect both men and women alike. A study found out that these two types alone were responsible for around 90% of the total cases of genital warts. (1)
Female genital warts can be a painful and embarrassing disease. Moreover, it takes time to develop as it has a long incubation period and is usually ignored. But if an infected person ignores it persistently, this can turn into cancer. The major causes of female genital warts are:
The most common cause is sexual contact with the infected person. Though using a condom can prevent it but since the virus is highly contagious, it can spread despite the use of condoms.
HPV can also be transmitted through oral sex but virus prefers the genital skin tissues to those of the oral tissues.
In rare cases, it can be transmitted to the newborn through its mother.
Fomites: In this type of transmission, the virus can spread by using the towel or toilet seat of an infected person.
Regions which are affected by the warts are vulva, anus, perineum, vagina, and cervix. Fertility is not affected by warts. If a woman is infected with vaginal warts, she can still get pregnant. (2) But pregnancy can have serious effects on warts. Warts may flare up during pregnancy and make urination painful and difficult. The medicines prescribed for warts may not be suitable during pregnancy. The most important effect, indeed, is the passing on of HPV virus from mother to the baby.
The symptoms of female genital warts are not very specific. That is the reason why it is ignored in the initial stages. But after some time, visual and sensual symptoms start appearing. The growth of cauliflower-like flesh lesions around the genitals and anus is the first symptom. Then other symptoms creep up like abnormal vaginal bleeding, excessive dampness around the growth area, more vaginal discharge, itching on the anal area, vulva, and cervix.
Presently, there are no techniques available to detect if someone is infected with HPV. The virus is believed to disappear itself after the first few months without any need of treatment. But in some cases, the infection might increase and require professional treatment. A Pap test is used to determine the cancerous cell growth around the cervix which in turn is useful to detect HPV. The usual treatments are cryotherapy, surgical treatment, Podofilox, and laser treatment. The most common treatment, though, is laser treatment. The disadvantage of each of these is that scars are left after the treatment.
In the case of female genital warts, or vaginal warts, it is advised to be precautionary. Vaccination against HPV is available in the market. The two vaccines used for females are called Gardasil and Cervarix. These two vaccines are given at a young age before teenagers indulge in their first sexual contact. Since female genital wart is a sexually transmitted disease, condoms also help to some extent.
Female genital warts can create awkward situations for a woman. Once detected, genital warts give enough time for curing. Treatments like over-the-counter medicines and natural remedies can easily cure warts and save women from this discomforting disease.