Worried about genital warts? Protect yourself against this STI

HPV vaccine can protect you against genital warts. ©Shutterstock

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) sometimes manifest themselves through genital warts. Read on to know how you can protect yourself from them.

Also known as venereal warts, genital warts are the results of sexually transmitted infections (STs). These are fleshy lumps or bumps in your genital or anal area. Caused by human papillomavirus (HPV-6, HPV-11, HPV-16, and HPV-18)), genital warts are one of the most common types of STIs. In men, they occur in scrotum, penis, or anus and in women, they affect the vagina, vulva, anus, or cervix. Though these fibrous overgrowths are benign, some may become cancerous if not treated on time. These warts can be small or large, appearing in clumps or single entities. Also, these may be non-pigmented or present in several colours like brown, red, pink, and white.

It is quite possible that you don t experience any symptom of this infection even after getting them for many years. They usually take around 3 months to manifest. However, if the symptoms appear, they include itching, tenderness, and a burning sensation. You can develop genital warts either through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. There are various factors that can increase your risk of having genital warts: Unprotected sex, oral sex, starting early engagement in sexual activities, developing stress and other viral infections. They can affect your life in more ways than one.

How do genital warts impact you?

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A study published in the journal BMC Public Health, has revealed how genital warts can affect your sexual, psychological, and social life.

Genital warts create discomfort and irritation in the genital area that further leads to self-doubt, low confidence, and a fear of rejection. These lumps also reduce your sexual desire and ability to reach orgasm while increasing your necessity for sexual affirmation. A person with this infection feels that he/she is sexually unattractive, impure, and repulsive. The other negative effects of these warts include soreness after treatment, fear of transmitting the condition, and negative self-perception. All these make the infected person lose spontaneity and reduces the pleasure quotient during sex. Also, genital warts may make you averse towards the idea of look for a new partner, says the study.

Apart from bringing down your self-esteem and making you feel low and dull, genital warts also promote feelings of guilt or anger. They start blaming themselves for not being able to protect themselves from their infected partners. Delayed treatment, lengthy treatment duration, and uncertainty make them feel powerless and exhausted. Moreover, negative-body perception along with the knowledge that the infection can remain dormant for several years and can erupt again later in life, instils a sense inadequacy. It should be noted here that the reappearance of this viral infection takes a severe form in those who do not develop symptoms at the initial stage.

Most of the genital problems (especially if infectious) have some sort of stigma associated to them. This is the reason people affected with genital warts try to aren't comfortable opening up about their condition which sometimes stops them from seeking medical help on time. They are afraid of being judged for their condition. So, they restrict their activities as well.

How are they treated?

Genital warts can be diagnosed by simply looking inside your anus, vagina, or at the scrotum or penis. However, in some cases, doctors do have to take a biopsy to know about the infection. If you are diagnosed positive for this viral infection, you doctor will suggest you some treatment options based on the location of the warts. These may include chemical applications to destroy the warts completely, freezing them (cryotherapy), burn the warts through electric current, or removing them with a small electrical wire loop.

Is it possible to prevent genital warts?

Yes, there is a vaccine available to provide you protection against HPV that causes genital warts (HPV 6 and 11). Also, it has been proven totally safe and can lead to only minor and common side-effects like redness in the area of injection and temporary pain. It is advised to take the vaccination at the age of 11 or 12 and before the age of 45. It is given in 3 shots to those falling in the age group 15-45. The second injection is given 2 months post the first one. And, the third one is provided 4 months post the second one. However, children between the age group of 9 and 14 get only 2 shots. They get the second shot 6 months post the first one. It is said that the vaccine works best if it is administered before a person's sexual life starts.

Those who have not taken the vaccine but want to keep themselves away from the infection, should use condoms while going for an intercourse. It's best to avoid having sex with multiple and unknown partners and those with visible warts. Also, quit smoking if you can. A study published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections has revealed that smoking increases your risk of developing genital warts.

Don't let them relapse

According to doctors, genital warts are treatable but cannot be cured. That means, you can develop the infection again in the future as the virus remains inside your body in dormant form even after the removal of warts. It is almost impossible to tell whether or not you are totally free of this virus. Therefore, to avoid reoccurrence, follow some hygiene measures like keeping the genitals clean, washing hands after touching the once infected area, avoiding sex if it feels uncomfortable, and applying a cold pack if the area hurts or is swollen.

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