Genital Warts

How to identify them

Is condom enough protection?

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Dr. Christopher Tzermias

Dermatologist – Venereologist

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Genital Warts in Men

Condylomata acuminata, the scientific term for genital warts, are the most common sexually transmitted disease caused by a virus.

Learn more about the treatment of genital warts here

It is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is also the cause of common warts on different areas of the body. Until today more than 80 strains of the virus have been identified, almost half of which are affecting the genital area.

The virus enters the skin and mucous membranes through tiny scratches in the genital area, which are caused during sexual activity. HPV causes quick proliferation of the skin cells, leading to the development of benign lumps. For men, these are rather a discomfort and not so dangerous as they infect the urethra, penis, scrotum and the area around the anus.

In case of extended proliferation of genital warts, they may cause the extended development of soft plaques (on the shaft of the penis) or rough plaques (in the perianal region). They may also look like a small cauliflower or flat and dark-coloured.

Many times, though, they are not directly visible, as they may be covered by the growth of hair of that area, or located at the skin’s inner wall covering the glans, if circumcision has not been performed.

In any case, genital warts are highly contagious and can infect a female sexual partner even from the first sexual contact or the contact of areas with fluids.

Transmission

Following the first infection by HPV, the infection may remain in a latent state on the skin or in a subclinical form for some time, which means that genital warts exist but they are not visible to the naked human eye and, thus, special instruments are necessary to identify them.

This means that many men may have genital warts without knowing it.

The categories of men who are more susceptible to the infection are:

  • men with a weakened immune system,
  • who are changing frequently their sexual partners and they do not use a condom always.

Of course, it is important to highlight that, since the condom does not cover all perigenital area or all stages of sexual contact, it does not offer full protection.

Nevertheless, it is still the principal means of protection of a man against sexually transmitted diseases.

It is also worth noting that 20% of people having genital warts also have another sexually transmitted disease.

Almost 90% of genital warts are caused by two specific strains of HPV (6 and 11), considered as «low-risk» in relation to carcinogenicity possibility.

In general, genital warts themselves are painless, still really troubling for the patients due to the area they appear and their size. They may cause itching, malodorous discharge or even bleeding, especially when irritated, while in the case of obstruction of the exit of the urethra, pain and difficulty with urination are observed.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is possible both through a simple clinical examination, and through the collection of biological sample, which is sent for molecular analysis and isolation of total DNA and RNA. Diagnosis and the precise typing of HPV are of great importance, since certain «high-risk» types are implicated in cancers of the penis or anus in men.

About the author

Dr. Christopher Tzermias

Dermatologist – Venereologist

tzermias.gr

Specialised in England (Oxford, London) and in North America (New York, San Diego) in LASER Dermatology and pioneer in the application of advanced LASER in Greece. He established the first and very well equipped inpatient departments of LASER Dermatology in Greece, in the Athens Medical Centre at Marousi, Athens, St. Luke's Clinic at Panorama, Thessaloniki and in the Interbalkan Medical Centre of Thessaloniki. He was the Director of Invasive and LASER Dermatology of the Athens Medical Centre for 18 years, from 1996 to 2014.

Accessible by appointment in his clinics in Kolonaki - 49, Vas. Sofias str. (210 72 42 600) and Marousi - 71, Kifisias Ave. (210 61 00 900).

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Is scarring possible due to the lesions from genital warts?

No scarring appears when the method of sublimation is used for treatment, which is achieved painlessly, noninvasively, without incision and stitches, using an ultrapulse CO2 laser.