HPV and genital warts

Diagnosis, treatment and vaccination from Broadgate Clinic London Wall

Genital warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus has more than 100 different strains. Approximately 30 of the 100 strains can affect the skin in the genital area, but don’t usually result in warts forming. When genital warts do appear 90% of cases are caused by:

  • HPV strain 6
  • HPV strain 11

For the sake of clarity, the strains of HPV that cause genital warts DO NOT cause genital cancer.

What genital warts look like

In appearance genital warts can look quite unpleasant and as a result can therefore cause emotional or psychological distress in some people. The appearance of genital warts varies from person to person and infection to infection. They are small, fleshy growths that appear slightly raised from the skin area around them. They are often referred to as being cauliflower shaped but can also appear as small white or pinkish lumps.

They are usually painless, and apart from the emotional/psychological distress they do not pose a serious health threat. They can on occasion become inflamed or itchy in which case they may bleed, especially if scratched.

There is no evidence that suggests genital warts affect a person’s fertility.

Where do genital warts form?

Genital warts can appear singly or in clusters, which is when they take on a “cauliflower-like” appearance. As the name suggests, genital warts form on the skin on and around the genital area; more specifically they can appear:

  • On the vulva (which is the medical name for the opening of the vagina)
  • On the neck of the womb, otherwise known as the cervix
  • Inside the vagina
  • Around or inside the anus
  • On the penis
  • On the scrotum
  • On the upper thighs
  • Inside the male urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the penis)

As can be determined from the list of locations where genital warts form, they affect both men and women.

There is no known cure for an HPV infection but in the majority of cases the infection is cured eventually by a healthy immune system.

How is an infection spread?

HPV is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact. In the majority of cases there are no symptoms. When a symptomless infection self-cures (as is most often the case) the infected person is never aware they have been infected.

How a genital wart infection is diagnosed

There is no blood test for genital warts so diagnosis is usually achieved by a medical professional visually inspecting the warts themselves. A magnifying glass may be used where necessary.

Dependent on exactly where the warts form, it may be necessary to use a small plastic spatula known as a speculum to examine inside the vagina, or a small plastic tube called a proctoscope to examine the inside of the anus. Both examinations are painless but could cause some mild discomfort or embarrassment.

Treating genital warts

There two main types of treatment for the removal of genital warts depending on what type of warts you have.

  • Topical treatments (work best with soft skinned warts)
  • Physical ablation

Topical treatments

A topical treatment involves applying a chemical, cream or lotion to the warts.

Physical ablation treatments

There are a number of physical ablation treatments available. The most common ones include:

  • Cryotherapy
  • Electro-surgery
  • Excision
  • Laser surgery

In some instances a combination of treatments may be recommended and they may need to be administered over several months.

You may wish to consider being vaccinated

If you do not have an HPV infection and you wish to avoid contracting one you might like to consider being vaccinated.

Walk in STD Clinic London Wall

Whether you want to be tested for an HPV infection, treated for genital warts, or you want to consider having a vaccination against HPV, if you live and/or work in London you can make use of the Broadgate GP’s private, discrete, walk in STD clinic London Wall. No prior appointment is necessary. Our hours of opening are:

  • Monday to Thursday 08:00 to 18:30
  • Friday:08:00 to 17:30

Broadgate Clinic London Wall also operates well men and well women health services, also on a no appointment, walkin basis.