Genital warts are caused by HPV. The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the UK. It is a sexually transmitted virus, which causes genital warts. HPV can also cause changes in a woman’s cervix and is the single biggest cause of cervical cancer in women.

In addition to cervical cancer, HPV can also cause vulval, anal and other types of cancer. Many types of HPV exist, but only about 30 of them can cause genital warts. There are now vaccines that can prevent infection from certain types of HPV.

The warts begin as small red or pink growths and can grow as large as four inches across.  At this size, they can interfere with intercourse and childbirth. They may also be either flat or resemble raspberries, or cauliflowers in appearance. Growths may also be hidden or undetectable. Genital warts may enlarge during pregnancy due to hormones. If the warts become large enough, they could become an obstacle to delivery, requiring a caesarean section. In some instances, warts are passed from mother to child during childbirth, leading to a potentially life-threatening condition for newborns in which warts develop in the throat (laryngeal papillomatosis).

Persistent HPV (Genital Wart) infections are now recognised as the major cause of cervical cancer.  They may play a role in some cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, and penis. Studies have also found that oral HPV infection is a strong risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer.  This is a cancer that forms in tissues of the oropharynx, which is the middle part of the throat and includes the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils.

It is important that STD testing for HPV is done regularly. For women, this STD test needs an internal swab, for men there does need to be a visible wart to swab as part of the STD test.

How is HPV and Genital Warts treated?

As HPV is a virus, there is no cure. In other words, once you contract the virus it cannot be removed with medicine although most people’s bodies get rid of the virus naturally over time.

The symptoms of HPV, including Genital Warts, can be treated. If you have visible warts, then these can typically be removed with lasers, creams, surgery or frozen (cryotherapy). Recently, two vaccines have been developed for immunizing against certain types of HPV. Gardasil is currently recommended in the UK.

Better2Know can organise an STD test for 30 types of the HPV virus, with STD clinics nationwide, we will have a clinic near you that can see you quickly, get your STD test results in five days and you do not have to give your real name.

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