Genital Warts

How to identify them

Is condom enough protection?

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Dr. Christopher Tzermias

Dermatologist – Venereologist

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Prevention & Protection Methods

The most effective protective measure to avoid exposure to genital warts is complete sexual abstinence. Since, for most people, this is not a highly desirable option, observing certain daily practices is the ideal way to reduce the risk of acquiring warts. In case of a suspected HPV infection, then an examination from a specialised dermatologist-venereologist is required. Special care should be taken by individuals who frequently change sexual partners.

Condom use

Always use a condom during sexual intercourse, but bear in mind that it cannot offer you full protection. A condom does not cover the whole penis and genital area and is not used during all sexual practices.

Visit to the Dermatologist – Venereologist

A visit to a specialised dermatologist-venereologist can be essential in order to detect, in detail and good time, possible lesions; even those not visible to the naked eye (subclinical lesions). It is a painless examination performed using bright light, special magnifying lenses and other special equipment used in dermatology, such as a dermatoscope.

In case lesions are detected, then a CO2 laser treatment is thoroughly performed. This therapy is highly beneficial:

  • no scars are left at application areas
  • healing demands less time
  • treatment is accompanied by frequent medical re-examination for 8-9 months, so as for any daughter lesion to be prevented


The Pap-test is essential but not sufficient to exclude the presence of the virus, as it only has a positive result when the virus has ALREADY caused a malformation. Thus, a negative PAP-test does not exclude the presence of HPV.

Sexual partner examination

The examination of the sexual partner is essential. Examination may be performed by palpation during foreplay, preferably with sufficient light.


Self-examination for any alterations, uncommon minor skin protrusions or other skin lesions that were not previously present in the genital area and around it, is very important. Self-examination is performed by palpation of the genital and perigenital area using a mirror and bright light. Remember that careful examination and prompt detection can only be useful.


Two prophylactic vaccines against HPV are approved by authorities and available. One of them, the quadrivalent vaccine, offers protection against 4 virus strains, namely HPV 18, 16, 11 and 6, while the other, the bivalent vaccine, protects against HPV 18 and 16 only. It is estimated that virus strains HPV18 and HPV16 account for about 70% of cases of cervical cancer globally while HPV11 and HPV6 cause 90% of genital warts. Both vaccines are usually administered in 3 separate dosages, each followed by an interval of 6 months or 2 dosages followed by an interval of 6-12 months for younger recipients.

According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, vaccination is recommended for girls and boys 12-26 years of age. Needless to mention, older age groups should not be excluded (as long as there is no previous sexual activity). Lastly, despite getting vaccinated, one should still take all necessary protective and preventive measures. Besides that, there are indications that the protective effect of the vaccine lasts for 4-6 years, although there is ongoing research on this.

Avoidance of minor injuries

Frequent shaving of the perigenital area causes scratches, while waxing causes minor injuries, resulting to the development of foci that make viral entry possible. Such foci that allow for viral entry may also be induced by skin disorders, such as genital herpes. If HPV infection is suspected, then hair trimming is advised instead of shaving in this area, to avoid viral transmission from one place to another. During this time, it is also advisable to avoid rubbing the area with the sponge during the bath or with the towel and bathrobe immediately after. To dry the skin, it is recommended to dab the area with toilet paper.

Learn more about the treatment of genital warts here