Are Genital Warts Forever?


Q: I contacted genital warts in college, 25 years ago. I'm married with 2 kids (yes my wife knows), and neither of them have shown any signs of warts. Is this disease forever, can it come back after all this time?


A:   The warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Infection with genital warts may not be obvious sometimes. Genital warts are highly contagious. There is roughly 60% risk of getting the infection from a single sexual contact with someone who has genital warts.
Recurrence rates of genital warts are greater than 50% after one year and have been attributed to the following factors: Recurrent infection from a sexual partner, potentially long incubation time of HPV, Persistence of the virus in the surrounding skin, in the hair follicle, or in sites that are missed by the treatment used, deep lesions or lesions that cannot be detected. Genital warts often appear or increase in number during pregnancy. Dormant infections may also become activated. Because no treatment is 100% effective, it is important to prevent the spread of HPV which causes genital warts and some cancers whenever possible. Transmission of genital warts can be decreased if you use condoms and refrain from sexual activity until therapy is completed.

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