Genital Warts in Women
According to the latest estimates, 70% of the female population has genital warts!
Find out about the treatment of genital warts here
This percentage, which includes many women who do not know they have been infected by the so-called “Human Papilloma Virus” (HPV), explains why genital warts are the most frequent sexually transmitted disease.
Condylomata acuminata, the scientific term for genital warts, are caused by strains of HPV, which is also responsible for common warts. Approximately 40 out of the 80 known HPV strains affect women’s genital area, causing small lumps on the labia, vaginal walls, the perineal area, and the uterus.
These lumps are usually brown- or grey- coloured; in the beginning, they look like grape berries, but as they develop they resemble more a cauliflower. However, sometimes warts are so small and flat that it is impossible to observe them by the naked eye.
In any case, they cause itching and irritation in the area, increased vaginal discharge and bleeding during sexual penetration.
Without special treatment, genital warts may expand, create large plaques and block the vagina or the urinary tract.
Nevertheless, the most worrying fact is that some of these strains (such as 16, 18, 31, 33 and 45) are considered responsible for the development of malformations and subsequent malignancies in the inner and outer genitals (mainly in the cervix).
Prevention & diagnosis
A very important step for the prevention of the infection is the new quadrivalent vaccine Gardasil, which protects against HPV strains 6, 11, 16 and 18. It is administered in three doses at the ages of 12-25, although the older age groups are not excluded.
It should be mentioned that carcinogenic virus strains do not cause visible genital warts. However, they cause dysplasia, a precancerous lesion in the cells of the cervix or rectum. This does not imply that each dysplasia will progress to malignancy (only 2%).
Diagnosis is facilitated through the use of a mild acetic acid solution, which is applied on the genitals to make warts more visible through a special microscope.
Colposcopy and Pap test (cervical smear test) are also very important, and they should be repeated every six months for the diagnosis of cervical lesions.
The virus is mainly transmitted through:
- sexual contact
- oral sex
Once the virus infects the cells of the skin or mucous membrane, it may remain in latent state for many months or even years, until the first symptoms occur.
In general, though, the symptoms appear within 3-6 months from the time of sexual contact for the two thirds of women that have sexual contact with an infected partner.
The greatest risk is for women that:
- Have sexual contacts with many partners without protection
- Have a history of another sexually transmitted disease
- Have a weakened immune system