You’ve probably heard of genital warts, but although they’re one of the most common types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States, many women don’t understand how they spread or what to do about them if you have them.
At Yakov Levy MD PC in Midtown East, Manhattan, and Forest Hills, Queens, New York, board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Yakov Levy treats women for pelvic pain and infections of all kinds — including genital warts. We’re committed to patient education to empower our clients to protect themselves and enjoy optimal health. Here’s what every woman should know about genital warts and the treatments available.
What are genital warts?
Genital warts are small bumps that appear on the inside or outside of your genitals (vagina, vulva, cervix, or anus). They’re generally small and match the color of your skin. Although they may resemble warts you find on other body parts, they’re not the same.
You may notice only one wart, or they may grow in clusters. While they’re not typically painful, they can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including redness, itching, and discomfort. Sometimes genital warts may bleed from friction or irritation.
How do you get genital warts?
Most genital warts are contracted after you’ve been infected with a virus called HPV (human papillomavirus). There are many different strains of HPV, and not all of them cause genital warts or other serious issues, like cervical cancer.
About 75% of Americans ages 15-49 have been infected with HPV. This virus is highly contagious, and if you’re sexually active, you’re at risk of developing genital warts. Your risk increases if you are:
- Under 30 years old
- A smoker
- Have a weak immune system
Your risk also increases if your biological mother had HPV during childbirth.
If you have sexual intercourse with a person who has one of the strains of HPV that cause genital warts, it can take months or even years after infection by HPV to develop symptoms of genital warts.
How can I tell if I have genital warts?
The best way to know if you have genital warts is by getting a physical examination from a qualified gynecologist like Dr. Levy. A routine STI check and regularly scheduled well-woman exam with Pap smear can help identify any infections early, which makes them easier to treat.
If you suspect you have genital warts, it’s important to schedule an appointment to protect your health and the health of your partner. Because women can develop warts deep inside their bodies, Dr. Levy may need to conduct a pelvic exam along with a visual examination of the affected area.
To make the warts easier to identify, your provider may use a mild solution that makes them more visible. In addition, Dr. Levy may do a Pap smear to test for HPV in the cells of your cervix.
What treatments exist for genital warts?
Don’t try to treat genital warts on your own. Home remedies that may work on other warts don’t treat genital warts, and they could be dangerous to your health.
Once Dr. Levy confirms you have genital warts, he customizes a treatment plan based on the location, size, and number of warts you have. Each treatment is performed in the comfort of our office and may include:
- Prescription genital wart remover
- Surgical removal of warts
- Liquid nitrogen to freeze warts off
- Electrocautery to burn warts off
- Laser treatments to remove warts
It’s important to keep in mind that treatment of the warts does not remove the strain of HPV that causes them from your system. There’s no cure for HPV, and you can still pass the infection to others. Treatment of genital warts does improve your discomfort and reduce the risk of transmission.
Learn more about genital warts and other sexually transmitted infections from the experts at Yakov Levy MD PC. Schedule an appointment by contacting the NYC office nearest you, or book online now.