Genital warts are white or flesh-coloured, smooth, small bumps that can appear anywhere in the general area of the genitals. They can also grow larger and appear as fleshy, cauliflower-like lumps on the genitals. Neither of which are more dangerous than the other, it is merely a characteristic and the stage that the illness was noticed.
Genital warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV can cause multiple illnesses in the body as there are multiple strains of the virus attributing to different diseases in humans. Out of the hundreds of known strains of HPV, about 30 strains of the virus cause diseases of the genital area. These include warts, or in more sinister cases, cancer of the anus, cervix, vagina, and penis.
Most of the other strains have no known effect on humans.
How do I get infected by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a contagious disease that is transmitted through genital skin contact or through direct contact with genital fluids of a person already infected with HPV.
For transmissible illness such as these, using barrier methods of protection for sexual intercourse such as condoms should be emphasised. However, condoms are not very effective against transmitting HPV just because the HPV virus does not require penetrative sex to transmit the virus.
It can also be transmitted from a mother to an unborn child if the mother has an active HPV infection during the course of the pregnancy.
How do I know I am infected with HPV? How can it be detected?
A majority of people infected with HPV do not realise they even have the virus as it does not present with any symptoms. Some people will notice bumps or warts around the genital area, otherwise known as genital warts. These usually occur one to three months after initial infection with HPV.
The most sinister manifestation of the HPV disease is cervical cancer affecting women in their 30s or 40s. The simplest way to detect cervical cancer is by identifying if an individual is an active risk of getting the disease and doing regular PAP smears. MOH guidelines are also apparent on the timing and interval for PAP smears for women in the reproductive age group. Sometimes a biopsy of unhealthy cervical looking tissue may be needed.
For men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM), it is recommended that they do an anal PAP smear to investigate for HPV.
How can HPV & Genital Warts be treated?
In most cases, the HPV infection is self-limiting therefore no treatment is deemed necessary.
Unless an individual has issues with antibodies or a weak immune system in general, the body should be able to contain and eradicate the virus from the body in due time.
If an individual has an impaired immune system or a weak immune response, a lingering infection or a co-infection with another sexually transmitted illness can occur.
In cases of genital warts, the treatment options are largely dependent on the severity of the infection. The most common treatment options include creams and paint-on ointments. These induce a state of cell death so warts around the genital will eventually wither and fall off the skin.
Some patients may be offered cryotherapy where the wart is frozen then removed. The wart is frozen prior to that so that there will be no transmission of the wart after.
Apart from the above surgical options for wart removal also exist. This is where a surgeon uses electrocautery or a scalpel and surgically excise warts.
Unfortunately, the majority of genital warts or other warts can recur very frequently and is rather common to have warts recur post removal. Sometimes, repeated treatments are required for complete remission, but patients should be aware of the recurrence rates in such an infection.
HPV and Cervical cancer
Some HPV viruses are known as high-risk viruses. This is particularly true in virus strains 16 and 18. This is because it induces changes in the cells in the cervix of a woman and causes cervical if not detected early.
It is in this light that it is recommended that all sexually active women are advised to go for regular PAP smear tests, screen for HPV infections and visit your doctor for HPV vaccination in Singapore.
HPV and PAP Smear
Pap smear is a relatively painless test that can be quickly done. It involves inserting a speculum into the vagina of the patient to allow for inspection then a tool is inserted to obtain scraping. The patient should go back to resume activities of daily living with no hindrance once after the procedure completed by our female doctor.
These scrapings and obtained cells are then examined under a microscope to look for abnormal cells.
HPV and HPV Vaccination
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a group of virus that can cause:
- Vaginal Cancers
- Vulvar Cancers
- Anal Cancers
- Penile Cancers
- Oropharyngeal Cancers (cancers of the throat and tongue)
- Genital warts or Papillomas
The HPV vaccination is used to protect against HPV-related diseases and cancers.
To complete HPV vaccination, 3 doses of injections will be given. The recommended HPV vaccine schedules are:
First dose: During your doctor visit.
Second dose: 1 – 2 months after the first dose
Third dose: 4-5 months after the second dose
If you are aged between 9 – 26 years old female Singapore PR or Singaporean, you are eligible for the Medisave 400 scheme to pay for HPV vaccination.
Under the Medisave 400 scheme, you are allowed to claim up to $400.00 each year for yourself or your immediate family members.
Want to find out more about Medisave 400 scheme for HPV vaccination, please call our clinics, email us, or approach our friendly staffs for more details.
To read more about Medisave 400 Scheme for HPV vaccination.
More protection. New 9-valent HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9)
There are over a hundred strains of HPV and they are each given a designated number e.g. HPV 6 or HPV 16 or HPV52.
HPV strains that cause warts will NOT cause cancers and HPV strains that cause Cancer will NOT cause warts.
Compared to the older Gardasil, the new GARDASIL 9 offers a wider range of protection against HPV strains.
Both Gardasil and Gardasil 9 give you protection against the cancer-causing HPV 16 and 18 and the wart-causing HPV 6 and 11.
Gardasil 9 protects additional 5 other high-risk types: 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58.
Together these types cause about 90% of cervical cancers.
Gardasil 9 is not covered by Medisave 400
Another HPV vaccine Cervarix, on the other hand, protects only against the commonest cancer-causing HPV 16 and 18. There is no wart protection with Cervarix.