Our expert says:
Genital warts, also called condyloma, are growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are usually, but not always, spread sexually. The incubation time (time from exposure to appearance of growths) may range from a few weeks to many months or years. Some people harbor the virus and transmit it to others without ever developing the growths themselves. New information has shown that the virus can be found in some people prior to sexual activity. With a long incubation period and the potential presence of the virus without any sexual activity, it's hard to determine the source of the virus. Diagnosis and treatment are important because some wart viruses can cause cervical cancer.
Available treatments for HPV do not completely eliminate the virus. Instead, treatment is aimed at removing uncomfortable growths, reducing the number of viral particles, and, perhaps, stimulating the immune response to help control the infection. Treatment depends on the areas involved. In most cases, chemical, electrocautery (heat), cryotherapy (freezing), or laser treatment is used. Excision (surgical removal of infected tissue) is used only occasionally. Most treatments are done in a health care provider's office, and are tailored to the needs of the patient.
In terms of long-term effects of HPV for women, some HPV infections are associated with Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN), also known as cervical dysplasia (abnormal cell growth on your cervix). Unchecked and untreated, it can progress, possibly to cancer; or, it can heal on its own. The more severe the dysplasia, the more likely it is to progress to cancer. Mild dysplasia may resolve on its own, without any treatment. Women with suspected condyloma need to be thoroughly evaluated, which includes viewing the cervix through a special microscope known as a colposcope.
You may want to use condoms with your future partner(s) to help protect yourselves, as contact with infected areas not covered by a condom or dam could transmit HPV.
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