Genital warts are among the most common sexually transmitted diseases. These warts
appear as tiny flesh-colored bumps that are cauliflower-shaped. These warts may start
as small lesions, around 2 millimeters in diameter, but may grow bigger and expand
into larger masses. In women, they develop inside and outside the vagina, cervix,
uterus, and around the anus. In men, they are found on the scrotum, penis shaft,
and anus area. For both sexes, genital warts may manifest in the mouth and throat
areas when the person has engaged in sexual intercourse with an infected partner.
The virus that causes genital warts is called human papillomavirus (HPV). There are
around 100 strains of HPV but only 30 of these can infect the genital area. These
strains are called genital HPV, which can infect about 50 percent of men and women
who are sexually active.
There are two types of HPV: high-risk and low-risk. High-risk types of HPV can cause
cancer of the cervix, vagina, anus, penis or throat. They are not related to those
that cause genital warts. Type 16 of HPV is related to around 50 percent of all cervical
cancer cases. Types 16, 18, 31, and 45 all together are responsible for 80 percent
Low-risk types are those that lead to genital warts. Specifically, around 90 percent
of genital warts cases result from types 6 and 11 of HPV. Low-risk types are often
difficult to detect because they don’t exhibit any symptoms. A lot of people are
carriers of low-risk HPV but they remain unaware of it. Because of this, the risk
of transmitting them is higher. Thus, it would be best to have regular check-ups
in order to find out whether you have the virus.
The most common way by which genital warts can be transmitted is through sexual intercourse
with a carrier. Experts estimate that around 66 percent of those who have sex with
an infected partner will contract genital warts either through vaginal, oral, or
Another avenue of transmission is through childbirth. When the baby passes through
an infected birth canal, there is a chance that he/she will develop warts in the
mouth and throat called laryngeal papillomatosis.
Although there is still no hard scientific proof, genital warts can also be transmitted
through fomites, which are objects that carry viruses from one person to another.
Examples of fomites are contaminated medical equipment and personal items such as
The incidence of genital warts and other complications of HPV can be increased by
several risk factors. These include becoming sexually active early, having multiple
sex partners, having other sexually transmitted diseases in the past, and having
sexual relations with a partner whose sexual history you are not aware of.
The use of birth control pills and other oral contraceptives also increases the chances
of getting genital warts because of increased unprotected sexual intercourse. Excessive
stress, smoking, and alcohol consumption may also increase the chances of contracting
genital warts. Furthermore, having a compromised immune system also raises the risk
of genital warts. Thus, those who have experienced trauma in the form of surgery
and serious illnesses such as cervical cancer will most likely get infected.