For the past several years, genital warts are the leading sexually transmitted disease or STD in the United States. Its prevalence rate, or the number of genital wart cases in a given population at a given time, had a four-fold increase in the past two decades. At present, it is estimated that around 30 million individuals worldwide have been affected by genital warts at least once in their lifetime, surpassing the number of genital herpes cases. It is alarming that after 10 years of decreasing numbers of genital wart cases, its incidence reached its all-time high in 2006, prompting physicians to warn sexually active individuals to take the necessary precautions to prevent infection and recurrence of the disease.
Genital warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, a group of highly contagious viruses that are mainly transmitted through sexual contact. It is estimated that uninfected individuals who engage in any sexual activity, such as vaginal, oral or anal sex, with an infected person has a 60% chance of acquiring the infection. This only indicates that the virus is highly competent to overcome the body’s defenses. Though some HPVs types are less likely to result in genital warts, these viruses are strongly associated to malignancies of the cervix and vagina are some of its complications.
At present, there is no known cure for genital warts and HPV-related complications. Though medications and surgeries are easily availed, these therapies can only alleviate the annoying and irritating signs and symptoms of genital warts, and they do not, in any way, eradicate the virus of the body. Thus, prevention is one’s best defense against this highly infectious disease.
Tips To Prevent Genital Warts:
- The best preventive measure against genital warts is total abstinence from any sexual activity. Recall that highly infectious genital warts are transmitted through vaginal intercourse, oral sex and anal sex. An actual penetration is not necessary to cause infection. As long as a break in the skin comes in contact with the virus, genital warts are likely to grow in three to eight months.
- Practice safe sex. If total abstinence is not possible, it is important to be careful in one’s sexual activities and prevent promiscuous acts. Multiple sex partners significantly increases one’s risk to genital warts, thus, it is recommended to wear latex condoms to reduce the chances of acquiring the virus. Bear in mind that condoms do not give a hundred percent guarantee against HPV transmission. Genital warts can grow in areas other than the penis or vaginal walls, and once a skin break comes in contact with a virus, HPV transmission is a big possibility. Spermicides and oral contraceptives do not protect you from genital warts. Get to know more about your partner before engaging in any sexual activity. Though at times it might seem uncomfortable, it is better be sure than to be sorry later.
- Through the latest advances in science and medicine, a vaccine is now readily available for women against the four commonly isolated HPVs, HPV-6, HPV-11, HPV-16 and HPV-18. These HPV types are associated to genital warts, cervical carcinoma and anogenital malignancies. Gardasil, a vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is recommended to women ages 9 and 26 years. Administration of Gardasil helps the body develop immunity against the HPV viruses, which is greatly beneficial in preventing the occurrence of complications, such as cancer.
- Do not scratch the itch. Itchiness is one of the most irritating and bothersome symptoms of genital warts. Scratching might spread the virus to uninfected parts of the body.
- Hand washing is not considered a universal infection precaution without a reason. It is the simplest and least expensive way of preventing HPVs. Recent studies show that aside from sexual contact, HPV infections are also spread through hand-genital and oral-genital contacts. Genital warts are itchy and there is a big tendency to scratch them off. Because there are times when scratching or picking the warts are done unconsciously, it is doubly stressed to wash hands, especially before and after eating and after using the bathroom.