Condyloma, otherwise known as genital warts, is a common type of sexually transmitted disease, or STD, that causes small bumps to appear in the genital area in those affected with this condition. After sexual contact with an infected partner, patients can develop this type of human papilloma virus, or HPV, within three months of contact, although it may take years after contact for some cases to develop.
Causes of Condyloma
Condyloma is caused by the HPV virus. The virus passes from one person to another through sexual contact involving the skin of the vagina, penis, mouth or anus. Genital warts are most common in people who:
- Have unprotected sex with multiple partners
- Are diagnosed with other sexually transmitted diseases
- Became sexually active at a young age
If left untreated, patients may continue to infect others and can experience complications such as cancer or problems during pregnancy.
Symptoms of Condyloma
Genital warts can develop anywhere in the genital region, as well as in the mouth or throat. They typically appear as small, flesh-colored bumps that may cause itching, bleeding and discomfort. Less commonly, other warts may be either flat or have a cauliflower texture and appearance. Some patients may not experience any symptoms from this condition, and some warts may be so small that they are not even noticeable when they are present.
Diagnosis of Condyloma
Condyloma is usually diagnosed after a physical examination by a doctor. In women, an HPV infection can also be diagnosed through a routine Pap smear test which indicates pre-cancerous changes of the cervix. In cases where the warts are invisible to the eye, a vinegar test may be administered. A vinegar solution is applied to the suspected areas, which causes the warts to whiten and they appear more visible.
Treatment of Condyloma
There are several treatment options available to relieve symptoms and help prevent flare-ups, although no cure for genital warts currently exists. Many cases of condyloma will heal on their own with no need for treatment. A doctor may prescribe topical medication to be applied to the affected area to help boost the immune system's ability to fight this condition or to destroy the infected tissue. Larger warts that do not respond to medication may require surgical removal performed through one of the following methods:
- Cryotherapy uses liquid carbon dioxide to freeze the wart tissue and remove it
- Electrocautery uses electricity to safely burn off the wart tissue
- Surgical excision is used to cut the warts off of the skin
- Laser treatment uses a powerful beam of light to precisely destroy the wart tissue without harming any surrounding skin
Surgery may also be recommended for women who are pregnant in order to prevent exposing the baby to the condition during delivery.
Prevention of Condyloma
The most effective prevention against condyloma and other STDs is to avoid sexual contact, especially with partners who have an active infection. If this is not possible, it is recommended to always use a condom during sexual activity order to reduce the risk of contracting an infection.
There is currently a vaccination available for certain strains of the HPV virus. Two HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Both vaccines are highly effective in preventing persistent infection with HPV types 16 and 18, which cause most cases of genital warts. Both vaccines are effective for females between the ages of 9 and 26 and the Gardasil vaccine is effective for males between the ages of 9 and 26. These vaccinations are administered as three separate injections over the course of six months.