Much information has been shared about the occurrence of genital warts in young and adult women. Human Papilloma Virus or HPV, a group of viruses that commonly cause genital warts, are thought to cause different types of cancers, such as cervical carcinoma, in infected females. The devastating effects of HPVs in women have fired up media attention. Many support groups were established to provide women with adequate information regarding its prevention and treatment.
But what about men? Are they at risk to have genital warts, too?
Because the incidence of genital wart growth in the male population is rarely discussed, many thought that its prevalence among men is not as significant as it is seen in women. In actuality, around 50% of sexually active males in the United States will acquire HPV at some time in their life. Though some might eventually clear out the virus of the system, other men can develop health problems, such as genital warts. HPV causes genital or venereal in men the same rate that it affects the women.
Some HPV types can result in malignancies of the anus and penis. According to the latest survey, 1,530 men were diagnosed with cancer of the penis and around 1,910 are found with anus cancer. The risk for anal cancer increases by 17% in sexually active gay and bisexual men compared to men who engage in sexual activities entirely with women.
Penile warts are characterized by small and benign or non-cancerous growths on the penis, most commonly on the head and shaft. Penile warts usually appear as multiple lesions, though single raised lesions, measuring 1 to 2 millimeters, are seen in some cases. Genital warts can develop in various forms. Some penile warts appear smooth and pearly. Others might appear lobulated, fungating or cauliflower-like shaped. It is important to note any irregularity of wart shape, form or color as they could indicate more a complicated case of HPV infection.
Penile warts are considered as highly infectious. Once the virus gains access through a broken skin, it is more likely to infect the host cells. Hand-genital and oral-genital transmissions have been identified in HPVs, and so, these viruses can easily spread to other areas of the body without appropriate hygiene.
Genital Warts in Other Areas
Genital warts in males are not limited to the penis. Eruptions can also grow on the scrotum, groin, inner thighs, urethra, anus, mouth and the surrounding skin. Since HPVs mainly infect the skin and mucus membranes, any area in the body is susceptible to the virus if the conditions are suitable, such as in cases of immunosuppression.
Though the development of genital warts in men might manifest some signs and symptoms, some are asymptomatic, which means, they do not feel any changes associated to the infection This is one of the reasons why almost one million new cases of genital warts are recorded each year. Most infected individuals continue to have unprotected intimate relationships without knowing they actually have the disease. Because some genital warts grow in discreet areas, such as within the anus, uninfected partners believe that their sex partners are STD-free
Itching is commonly reported by infected individuals. Burning and painful sensations in the penis also occurs. Abnormal discharges coming from the penis are also observed, most especially in advanced HPV infections. Genital warts within the anus cause bloody anal discharges and changes in bowel movements. Enlargement and swelling of the lymph nodes in the anal and groin areas are also seen in some cases.
Treatment and Prevention
Total abstinence from any type of sexual activity is the most effective preventive measure against genital warts. If this is not possible, ensure that latex condoms are worn during sexual activities, which include oral and anal sex. Condoms do not entirely prevent HPV infections but they are greatly helpful in reducing the risk of transmission. Bear in mind that condom use is less likely to prevent the spread of warts in the scrotum and groin. These areas are not protected by the condom during sexual activities.
A vaccine has been developed to help women acquire immunity against HPVs. Though no known vaccine is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, many research groups are constantly searching for HPV protection and treatment for men.