STI: A ‘common’ sexually transmitted infection in the over-65s – signs of anogenital warts

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Anogenital warts – otherwise known as genital warts – are considered “common”, according to the NHS. Would you be able to recognise the infection? Experts at the Mayo Clinic described genital warts as “small, flesh-coloured bumps”. Some have a “cauliflower-like appearance”, which can grow on the vulva on women, or on the shaft of the penis for men.

Genital warts can also grow in the area between the external genitals and the anus.

In women, they can appear on the walls of the vagina, the anal canal, and the cervix.

For men, genital warts can develop on the tip of the penis, the scrotum, or the anus.

“Genital warts can also develop in the mouth or throat of a person who has had oral sexual contact with an infected person,” the Mayo Clinic noted.

While most genital warts are flesh coloured, they might also appear as brown or pink swellings in the genital area.

Genital warts can also lead to itching or discomfort, as well as bleeding with intercourse.

What causes genital warts?

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), with more than 40 strains affecting the genital area.

“Using a condom every time you have sex is a good idea, but won’t necessarily protect you from genital warts,” the Mayo Clinic cautioned.

Anybody suspecting they, or their partner, has genital warts should go to a sexual health clinic.

Treatments can include an application of cream or liquid, surgery, or freezing the warts.

All these treatments might cause a degree of pain or irritation and, in some cases, scarring.

“It may take weeks or months for treatment to work and the warts may come back,” the NHS added.

“There’s no cure for genital warts, but it’s possible for your body to fight the virus over time.”

Most genital warts are caused by HPV 6 and HPV 11 – and it must be noted that warts on the fingers “do not spread to the genital skin”.

How is genital warts spread?

The NHS said genital warts can not be passed on from hugging, sharing baths, towels, sheets, toilet seats or swimming pools from an infected person.

The infection can, however, be passed on from sharing sex toys if they are not washed and covered with a condom if used on another person.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that HPV can be spread through vaginal or anal sex, as well as through close skin-to-skin touching during sex.

“A person with HPV can pass the infection to someone even when they have no signs or symptoms,” added the CDC.

While it is extremely rare for warts to become cancerous, some HPV infections are classified as high risk.

These are infections with HPV 16 and 18, which is linked to cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancer.

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