Genital Warts in the US Population

People who are sexually active should be concerned of their reproductive health, especially those who have multiple partners or have exclusive lifetime partners that are or have been in multiple sexual relationships. Sexually transmitted disease (STD), including genital warts, is a harsh reality of life that can be prevented or dealt with when people are armed with the right information.

1. Genital HPV

Genital warts are one of the most prevalent types of STDs. Also known as venereal warts, it is a viral infection caused by certain low-risk strains of the human papillomavirus or HPV. A few high-risk strains of HPV is also linked to cervical cancer as well as relatively unfamiliar cancers of the vagina, penis, anus, throat and mouth.

2. Symptoms

Venereal warts are flesh or gray-colored lesions that appear in clumps or cauliflower-shaped in and around the genital area of both men and women. They may itch and cause discomfort and in rare cases result to bleeding during sexual intercourse. In some cases, the swellings are too flat or tiny and therefore unassuming.

There is a latent stage during the course of low-risk HPV infection in which there may be no apparent warts to indicate the disease. At this stage, an infected person can still infect his or her sexual partner with HPV.

3. HPV Transmission

HPV invades the body through minute cuts in the mucous membranes and skin of the oral and genital areas that are sustained during sexual activity.

4. Genital HPV in Pregnant Women and Infants

Pregnant women may experience sudden appearance of genital warts if they have been infected with latent HPV. Warts that occur inside the vagina may compromise its stretchability and pose difficulty during childbirth.

HPV infected pregnant women may likewise pass on the disease to their infants during normal delivery. This may lead to recurrent respiratory papillomatosis or RRP in infants, a condition in which the warts develop in the air passageway. In these cases, the infants may be required to undergo surgical removal of the growths.

5. Treatment

Like many viral infections, HPV has no known treatment. Infected people may opt to have the genital warts removed with topical medications or through cryotherapy, surgery, electrocautery or laser. Removing the symptom, however, does not constitute to treating the viral infection. Oftentimes, the body’s natural immune system can drive back HPV.

6. HPV Infection in the US

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC reports that there are about 20 million known cases of HPV infection across the US. An estimated 6.2 million new cases occur every year.

The incidence of HPV infection across the country is 1 in every 2 sexually active people at any point in their lifetime. Roughly 1% of all sexually active men and women in the US have genital warts.

HPV caused cervical cancer is projected to afflict approximately 11,070 women across the US in 2008, according to a study of the American Cancer Society. New cases of other HPV related cancers are estimated to occur within the year such as cancer of the vulva at 3,460, other female reproductive cancers at 2,210, male reproductive cancers at 1,250 and cancer of the anus at 3,050 in women and 2,020 in men. Meanwhile, an estimated 2,000 children will be newly diagnosed with RRP by the end of 2008.

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