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What is the difference between HPV and genital warts?

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HPV is the virus that is responsible for the development of genital warts. HPV is the cause of genital warts. This virus is passed along from person to person through genital contact, either vaginal or anal sex. HPV can be hard to treat as well as genital warts. HPV can also be transmitted by oral sex and simple genital to genital contact. For these reasons HPV can be passed by same-sex and heterosexual relationships, although your partner may not have and signs or symptoms of the disease. Why the genital warts? HPV causes once normal cells to basically mutate into raised growths of skin, known as warts. HPV is a very common type of STD with 50% of sexually active men and woman with multiple partners will get it during their life time.

Different Types of HPVs

Now, the HPV is divided into 40 different types that can thrive on the genital area of men and women. Going over just a few different types of HPV, they can infect the mouth and rarely, the throat (Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis; RRP). HPV 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancer in women, these are also responsible for rectal cancer. These HPV types are the ones that mutate the cells of a woman's cervix and these changes can be seen on a PAP smear test. HPV 16 and 18 also cause the warts on the lining of the vagina, rectum, and urethra. HPV6 and 11 are responsible for the harmless genital lesions known as genital warts. But sometimes, certain types of HPV can cause genital warts in males and females. Of the 40 HPV types, do you know how many are transmitted through sexual contact of some kind? Yes, all 40 types of HPV are transmitted by sexual contact.

HPV Warts

Genital warts caused by HPV are known as condyloma acuminata. HPV warts will not appear immediately after contact. It may take a week or months after initial contact for the genital warts to appear. For this reason a person may think they are in the clear and begin to continue to be with other partners, infecting them as well. This alone a cause for the rapid spread of this disease. Remember, just because you can't see it doesn't mean it is not there. Fear not, once these genital warts develop and become visible they are treatable within the walls of a doctor's office. Do not try to treat a genital wart with over the counter wart removers used for hands and feet. Even after treatment, genital warts may return during the first 3 months of treatment. The color of these warts can be whitish, gray, red, or pink. If warts are present inside the vaginal canal, intercourse can become extremely painful. Genital warts from HPV, as stated before, are not the same as warts found on the hands and feet. For this reason warts found on the hands a feet cannot be transferred to the genital area. So the only difference between HPV and genital warts is that HPV is the virus and genital warts are what the virus does to the human skin cells.

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Dr. Ernest C. Wong, DDS, MS, a premier dental office near San Diego


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