Genital warts represent the most common sexually-transmitted disease caused by a virus:human papillomavirus (HPV). Infection with genital warts may not be obvious. Genital warts affect both men and women and can occur at any age. Most patients with genital warts are between the ages of 17-33 years. Genital warts are highly contagious. There is a 60% risk of getting the infection from a single sexual contact with someone who has genital warts. Common warts are not the same as genital warts and are caused by different HPV types that infect the skin. Genital warts are indirectly associated with use of birth control pills because of the increased sexual contact without the use of barrier protection, multiple sex partners, and having sex at an early age. No single treatment is effective in eliminating warts and preventing them from coming back. Genital warts may go away on their own in about 10%-20% of people over a period of three to four months. 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. The treatment options are as follows: Cryotherapy this freezes the wart using liquid nitrogen or a "cryoprobe." It is an excellent first-line treatment because response rates are high with few side effects. Laser treatment is used for extensive or recurrent genital warts. It may require local, regional, or general anesthesia. The laser destroys the HPV-induced lesion. It is very costly, increased healing time, scarring, and potentially infectious viral particles in the air caused by the laser plume. Electrodessication uses an electric current to destroy the warts. It can be done in the office with local anesthesia.
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