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A condition more common than you might expect

Unfortunately, this is no April Fools’ joke. 

Genital warts affect more than 3 million Americans every year, making them extremely common. They are considered a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) caused by various low-risk strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). 

What is HPV?

This highly common STI could affect any sexually active man or woman, but can more negatively affect women in some cases. HPV is highly transmittable through skin-to-skin contact. The CDC even said it is so common that most sexually active people will contract it at some point. 

While visible symptoms of HPV like genital warts may disappear over time, HPV can remain in your cells and reappear in the future. Plus, it can be transmitted even in an absence of visible symptoms. 

Most strains of HPV do not pose serious threats to a person’s health, but more severe strains can lead to cancer of the cervix or vulva for women. These strains, however, do not correlate to our topic for today.

Common Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

While 30 to 40 strains of HPV exist, only a few of them cause genital warts. Further, common strains of warts that appear on hands or feet cannot be transferred to the genitals, and vice versa. 

After any type of intercourse, the warts may appear after weeks or months following infection. They are also not always visible to the eye, though they may appear small and as skin color or slightly darker. They often appear as soft, sometimes bumpy, growths around, you guessed it, the genital area. However, in some cases they may also appear in or around the mouth. 

This condition can be especially challenging because it may still cause symptoms like itching, burning, bleeding, or discharge even if invisible. The condition can become increasingly painful if left untreated. 

While any sexually active person can get HPV, genital warts are more commonly found in people who smoke, are below the age of 30, have a weakened immune system, or are children of a mother who had the virus during childbirth. 

To diagnose the condition, a doctor may ask questions about the nature of your sexual history or activity and may need to perform a physical exam. Following diagnoses, they may prescribe various topical treatments. These treatments are not available over the counter. 

Various home remedies exist, but few have proven effective. To prevent such an uncomfortable condition, doctors recommend HPV vaccinations and using physical barriers to transmission during intercourse. Ultimately, this condition can be hard to admit, but transparency and honesty can benefit all parties involved. 

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussion about medical, cosmetic, mohs, and surgical dermatology. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed dermatologist or other health care worker.