MANILA, Philippines - Appearances can, indeed, be deceiving. Warts‚ more commonly known as kulugo ‚ are skin growths that usually have a rough surface and are more commonly addressed for cosmetic reasons. But more than aesthetics, addressing warts and, more importantly, the virus that causes them, becomes even more critical when they infect the genital area.
Genital warts can either appear as small bumps or groups of bumps that may be either raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large, and sometimes cauliflower-shaped. In women, they may appear on the vulva, within the vagina, on the cervix, on the anus or within the rectum. In men, they manifest on the penis, on the scrotum, around the anus, on the groin, or thigh.
Genital warts are caused by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). More than 40 types of HPV infect the genital area. While most infections clear on their own, persistent infections may lead to genital warts or vaginal, vulvar, and cervical cancers depending on the virus type.
“The threat of HPV infection and diseases is overly underestimated by the average Filipino. The major health concerns center more on lifestyle diseases rather than infectious ones, says HPV expert Dr. Angela Bandola of the Ob-Gyn Infectious Diseases Section of the UP-PGH.
Genital HPV affects both men and women, and is cited by US data to be the most common among sexually transmitted infections. Genital HPV may be transmitted through intercourse, or via hand-to-genital, genital-to-genital or even mere skin-to-skin contact of the genital area.
One cannot see HPV. Most people who have been infected do not know they have it or that they are passing the virus to their partners.
“It is estimated that about 300 million women in the world are infected with HPV but show no symptoms of infection. Men are also not exempted and the incidence rate in men is believed to be similar to those in women,Dr. Bandola points out.
About 32 million men and women are diagnosed with genital warts worldwide each year and more than 75 percent of people coming into contact with genital warts develop this manifestation of HPV infection.
“Aside from the cost of having to undergo multiple procedures for diagnosis and treatment, I have some patients who have strained marital relationships and constantly fear getting a recurrence or re-infection, shares Dr. Bandola. “I have also treated a number of adolescent girls with genital warts who usually complain of vulvar itchiness or lumps. More often, they would be ashamed or hesitant to consult about their condition.
Abstinence from sexual activities is the best way to avoid HPV infection. A lifetime of mutual monogamy is another way, but only if neither of the partners have had past sexual relationships. Condoms can only reduce the risk of infection, offering limited skin protection in the genital area.
Vaccination is another option that can help provide protection. The quadrivalent HPV vaccine, an HPV vaccine for both males and females, helps protect against HPV types that cause genital warts as well as cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancers.
source: Philippine Star
Written by Philippine Star