Sexually Transmitted Infections: Genital Warts Singapore
Genital Warts are one of the most common Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in Singapore and worldwide. Genital Warts are caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV). There are over 150 related types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus. Apart from causing genital warts, HPV also places an infected person at risk of anal cancer, throat cancer, vagina and vulva cancer. HPV also is the culprit that is responsible for 70% of cases of cervical cancer in women.
Genital warts can be transmitted via close skin contact in particularly sexual contact, be it oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex with an infected person.
Symptoms of Genital Warts
One may not present with any symptoms though already infected by the HPV virus. There are many HPV types and many of these HPV types present with a variety of different symptoms.
Genital warts caused by HPV typically appear within 3 months of sexual contact with an infected person.
Genital warts are visually described as cauliflower-like flesh to whitish colour bumps over the genital region as well as around the anus.
Other symptoms that one may experience include Itching or burning or bleeding from your genitals or anus. HPV types vary greatly.
How is HPV Transmitted?
HPV in Singapore can be transmitted either through sexual contact – oral sex, anal sex or sexual intercourse with an infected person. HPV can be transmitted if an uninfected skin touches infected skin of a person with HPV – this is known as skin-to-skin contact transmission.
When Should I Get Tested for Hpv and Other STIs in Singapore?
All sexually active people are encouraged to get tested for HPV, even if no symptoms are detected. Individuals who have had sexual contact with an infected partner run a high risk of contracting HPV.
High-risk individuals include people who have multiple sexual partners as well as people who frequently change sexual partners, as well as those who engage in sexual activity without the use of barrier contraception (condoms). Those individuals (men and women equally) may also be exposed to other STIs, so it is recommended that they go for STI testing regularly.
What do I expect when I see my doctor?
Your doctor will enquire about relevant medical history pertaining to your symptoms and history of your sexual partner. Physical examination will be performed, including examining the lump over your genital region.
What Treatment Options are available for Genital Warts? in Singapore
Creams and Topical
Your doctor may prescribe medicated cream for you to apply to the lesion a few times a week for several weeks. The common side effect of the creams may also include burning, pain, irritation of the applied area.
Freezing (liquid nitrogen)
Your doctor may offer repeated sessions of cold freezing using liquid nitrogen weekly in order to clear the warts. This treatment may carry on for several months.
This is associated with the inconvenience of frequent clinic attendants, pain, blistering, swelling, irritation, infection, abnormal pigmentation risks of the treated area.
Treatment for genital warts can be frustrating as it may take weeks to months. There is a chance of recurrence of the warts after treatment. Having said that, there are some people who are able to clear the virus and lesion on its own over time.
Prevention Medicine: With HPV vaccination in the horizon, is HPV vaccination truly just for females only?
Is HPV vaccination beneficial in Genital Warts?
The answer is: Men are advised to have HPV vaccination as well.
The risks of HPV infection can be reduced with HPV (9-valent) vaccination.
HPV (9-valent) vaccination covers the 9 common strains of HPV.
HPV type 6 and 11: These 2 strains are responsible for genital warts in both males and females.
HPV 16,18, 31,33, 45, 52, 58: These high risks strains can cause cervical, vulva and vagina cancers in females. They can also cause anal cancer in both male and female.
In view of the benefits, the vaccination is recommended for both men and women from ages 9-26. Having said that anyone above the age group still may benefit from the vaccination. The HPV vaccination and cervical cancer is further discussed in another article.
In people with high risks of acquiring HPV infection and genital warts, or suffers recurrence episodes, HPV vaccination is recommended.
Complications of Genital Warts
As genital warts are invariably caused by the HPV virus, the presence of genital warts may indicate an increased risk of cervical cancer. Females are advised for regular pap smear and HPV screening.
Untreated genital warts may cause pregnancy complications such as urination difficulties and obstructed delivery if the warts occur over the vagina or birth canal.
What can I do If I Have Genital Warts
- Seek treatment for your warts
- Use a condom during sexual intercourse. – but if the virus/ warts are present on the skin not covered by condom, it can still spread
- Abstain from sex if you are in the midst of your warts treatment
- Avoid sharing sex toys with people with genital warts