They are rarely talked about, and yet genital warts are one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.
These are small wart-like growths in the genital and anal area, less so in the mouth. Often, genital warts go unnoticed because they do not cause any discomfort. However, they can lead to eczema with heavy itching. They are caused by the human papilloma viruses (HPV), which the body can sometimes deal with by itself. But if you have had genital warts once, they can always come back, there is no cure.
If an infection with "HPV high-risk types" remains untreated for several years, infected cells can develop precancerous lesions and, in rare cases, malignant tumours.
People with HIV are more likely to develop precancerous lesions and cancer - HIV-positive people should be screened at least once a year.
Transmission and protection
Genital warts viruses are transmitted during sex and are highly contagious.
Unfortunately, condoms are of little help, as warts viruses are also transmitted via hands, dildos or skin contact. If you shave your butt, the virus has more of an contact surface: it likes small skin lesions. Piercings also faciliate an infection.
Vaccinations before a first sexual contacts offer good protection against many high-risk HPV types. In Germany, vaccination is recommended for young girls and women. The American Vaccination Commission also recommends it for young men up to 21 and explicitly for gay and bisexual as well as HIV-positive men up to 26 years of age. There is no such general recommendation for Germany yet, but some doctors recommend the vaccination for gay men (paying out of your own pocket). Unfortunately the vaccination does not offer complete protection.
People with different sex partners should get examined regularly in order to be able to have genital warts removed at an early stage, if necessary, and to detect precancerous stages in good time.
Where do genital warts grow?
They are usually located at the transition from skin to mucous membrane, e.g. at your butt, in the urethral opening, on the glans and foreskin, sometimes also further down the cock or (rarely) in the oral cavity. If genital warts are not treated, they can spread. Around the hole or the glans, wart "carpets" grow, from which later in rare cases anal or penis cancer can also develop. In HIV-positive people, the warts grow faster and more intense.
As long as genital warts are small, they can be iced easily and painlessly. In this way, the viruses are destroyed and the wart just falls off. There are also other treatment options, such as surgical removal. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of success: the genital warts often come back because there is no direct therapy against the viruses. Important notice: after every treatment for genital warts, take a sex break until everything is healed, or keep the affected area out of your sexual activity! Fresh wounds increase the risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis C during sex.