Approximately 50% of sexually active individuals tend to develop genital warts during their lifetime. This makes the condition one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. Women have a slightly higher incidence of genital warts than men.
Causes of Genital Warts
Genital warts are the result of an infection by the human papillomavirus. While the warts typically develop in the genital area, they can also occur in the mouth or throat following oral sexual contact. Certain strains of the human papillomavirus are also known to cause cancer in both women and men. Various vaccines are available to protect against human papillomavirus-related cancers.
Look for Signs & Symptoms
The warts typically develop as gray or flesh-colored bumps in the genital or anal area. Some warts may be too small to see with the naked eye, but they can form clusters that may have a cauliflower-like shape. The warts may cause discomfort or itching and may even bleed during intercourse.
Transmission through Sexual Contact
The virus that causes genital warts is transmitted through sexual contact. In some cases, the body is able to kill the virus and the person never develops symptoms. Those most at risk for developing genital warts include people who have had sex with multiple partners or who have partners with an unknown sexual history. Sexual activity developed at an early age in combination with a history of another sexually transmitted disease also increases a person’s risk of developing genital warts.
When to See Your Doctor
Anyone with unusual growths or bumps on or around their genitals should consult a physician. Genital warts can lead to complications during pregnancy, especially if they become enlarged. The woman may experience difficulty urinating, the warts may limit the ability of the vaginal tissue to stretch during delivery, and the warts may bleed when stretched during the birth process. It is also possible for the baby to develop warts in its throat that could obstruct the airway. Women with a history of genital warts or human papillomavirus infection should get regular pap smears to test for early signs of cancer.