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What Causes Genital Warts?

Genital warts, also sometimes referred to as venereal warts or condyloma acuminata, are growths representative of a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease. They most commonly affect patients ranging in age from 17 to 33 years. Nevertheless, genital warts can also appear in children or those who have never had sex via direct contact of some kind.

Regardless of how the disease was contracted, the root cause of genital warts is the human papillomavirus (HPV for short). HPV is a relatively common virus on the whole. However, it is important to note that it comes in a variety of different strains - approximately 100, in fact. Only about 30 of these strains are capable of infecting the genitals. Genital strains of HPV can be split up even further into both high and low risk categories with the high risk types being responsible for causing serious ailments such as cancer of the genitals, anus, or throat.

It is the low risk types that are responsible for causing genital warts. Low risk genital HPVs are incredibly difficult to detect in many cases, as it is possible for someone to be a carrier of the virus without actually exhibiting any symptoms. However, someone doesn't need to exhibit symptoms themselves to pass the virus on to someone else. Because of this, transmission of genital warts is much higher than it might be otherwise and sexually active individuals should make sure to get screenings on a regular basis to always be sure of whether or not they are carriers.

The most common way for genital warts to be contracted is via sexual contact with someone who is already infected. Intercourse resulting in infection can be vaginal, anal, or oral and it is estimated by experts that the likelihood of contracting the diseases through engaging in such activities is approximately 66%. Someone's chances of eventually catching genital warts via sexual contact over the course of his or her lifetime naturally increases with the introduction of certain risk factors, such as having sex with more partners, beginning to have sex earlier in life, and having sex without being fully aware of a partner's own sexual history.

Even though genital warts are primarily considered a sexually transmitted disease, it is also possible to contract them in other ways that could bring an individual in contact with the virus. For example, many experts believe this can happen via contact with infected objects such as bath towels or other personal items. It is also possible for genital warts to be contracted at birth if a baby is born to a mother who is infected herself. The baby would be exposed to the virus as it passes down the birth canal and may possibly even develop the growths themselves in the mouth and throat, a condition known as laryngeal papillomatosis.

Certain other factors are also thought to increase the likelihood of an individual actually contracting the disease should they come in contact with the virus. These include a compromised immune system due to recent illness or a chronic autoimmune condition. Traumas such as surgery or serious conditions like cervical cancer can also increase the risk of developing the condition if exposed.