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What do Genital Warts Look Like?

written by: •edited by: Paul Arnold•updated: 6/23/2010

Genital warts are the most common sexually transmitted disease by a virus. The enemy is human papilloma virus (HPV) and most people come into contact with it at some point in their lives. So what do genital warts look like? The answer to this and a list of other facts are outlined below.

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    What is the Human Papilloma Virus?

    The human papilloma virus is a double-stranded DNA virus with eight genes. There are more than 200 types that can colonise and replicate on epithelial and moist surfaces such as the skin. Most people will be infected by HPV during their lives, but many will never know about it or express any symptoms.

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    How Does HPV Cause Genital Warts?

    There are about 30 different strains of HPV that can affect the genital area. Some will cause genital warts, others may lead to changes in the cervix that could lead to cancer. The majority will simply go away of their own accord without a person realising they were ever there in the first place. HPV genes are all expressed at different times during its life cycle, as the virus hijacks epithelial cell machinery to replicate itself. It leads to an unusual proliferation of cells.

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    What are Warts?

    Warts are essentially non cancerous skin growths as the skin cells are rapidly dividing; they can be considered as benign tumours. Those that are present on the skin (sometimes called common warts) are generally nowhere near as contagious as genital warts. It’s important to remember that they are very common, and not dangerous.

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    Who Gets Genital Warts?

    People who are sexually active. It’s passed on via skin-to-skin contact with the area that has been infected. In very rare cases it is also possible to be come infected by using a towel of someone who has genital warts and using it to dry your own intimate areas. Symptoms may not be immediately present, and warts can appear weeks, months, even years after the original infection. Genital warts are not usually painful.

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    What do Genital Warts Look Like?

    They take on a number of different guises. They can look exactly like the warts that are present on other areas of the body. They can also resemble small white or pinkish bumps. Some are so small that they cannot be seen unless there is a cluster of them. Some doctors may also have difficulty seeing them and distinguishing genital warts from other bumps, scratches, and abrasions on the skin.

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    How Do I Know If I’m Infected?

    You won’t know until the warts appear. But if you suspect that you may have them, because your partner has, then a solution can be applied to the area which turns white if there is infection. You would then be able to see any small warts that may be present.