They are one of the most common STIs in the UK amongst young people (second only to chlamydia). But what are genital warts, exactly?
The short answer: Genital warts are caused by the strand of the common human papilloma virus (HPV) — specifically types 6 and 11.
While you may be aware of their existence, you might not know how to separate the STI myths from the facts when it comes to what having them means for you, your partner, and your sex life.
Below I’ve debunked 5 myths about genital warts, including details on some of the products available for you to buy to treat your genital warts. Let’s dive in.
While genital warts are a sexually transmitted infections (STI), they are not only contracted through sexual activity. They can also be passed on through skin-to-skin contact. This means that any contact with an infected part of a person's body can cause you to get genital warts.
FYI: STD and STI are terms that are often used interchangeably. The main difference between the two being that the term STI clarifies that you can be infected, but not actually develop any symptoms or get sick. Using the term STI is becoming increasingly common amongst medical professionals as it’s technically more accurate.
That’s not necessarily true. Condoms do not cover the full area of the male genitalia, and do not cover any of the vagina.
Genital warts can appear over your whole pubic area and this means that there is still some skin exposed which can both pass and contract genital warts.
So, while condoms do reduce the chance of you being infected with HPV, they will not 100% prevent you from catching genital warts.
While genital warts are the clearest sign that you have types 6 or 11 of HPV, this doesn’t mean that you have not contracted the virus.
There can be an incubation period with genital warts, during which time you will not have any visible warts on your body.
This incubation period can last anywhere from three weeks to two years, meaning that you could have the virus without showing any HPV symptoms.
They can’t be cured, but they can be treated — and they may never re-occur. Once you have HPV, you will always have HPV and it will lie dormant. Some people will experience regular occurrences of genital warts, whereas others may have just the one break out, however they will still carry the virus.
There are many different genital warts treatments available. Among these are:
While all of these products treat your genital warts, and can help to remove any visible warts or lesions — HPV-11 and HPV-6 is an incurable infection.
These treatments be cannot be purchased over the counter from a high street pharmacy, they are classified as prescription-only. Genital warts treatment needs to be obtained from your GP, local GUM (sexual health) clinic or from a regulated UK online pharmacy. There is no shame in getting treatment for your genital warts, but getting the treatment online may save you some time.
Both men and women can contract genital warts; HPV has no gender preference and prior to HPV vaccinations being introduced around 340,000 US women and 360,000 US women were affected by genital warts each year.
This myth comes from the fact that other forms of the HPV virus can cause cervical cancer in women, leading people to believe that HPV only affects females.
Genital warts are the second most common STI in the UK among men and women under 25, with chlamydia taking the top spot. But while many people have genital warts, there are still many misconceptions about them. If you want more information about genital warts, then do not hesitate to contact your GP, GUM clinic, or speak to a registered pharmacist.
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