​Genital​​ HPV

Genital HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that causes health problems like genital warts​. Genital HPV, if left unchecked can lead to cancer and may cause the development of warts, which are small cauliflower-like growths or bumps on the labia (external skin surface on either side of vagina), at the opening of the vagina, cervix or around/inside the anus for women. Although warts affect both genders, women are more likely to have warts than men. The distribution in males is similar in the genital area, affecting the external reproductive organs or the anal region. ​

Warts that occur in the genital region are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is specifically spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with the warts, via all forms of intimacy. Therefore, it is not possible to become infected with HPV by touching a toilet seat. Although primarily appearing in the private parts, direct oral contact will produce similar lesions in or around the mouth. ​

Most women with warts do not have any symptoms at all. However, when symptoms do appear, you may complain of the following:

  • Soft skin-colored or pink/grey swellings that may be smooth and flat, or raised with a rough texture. When multiple warts grow in clusters they look like a cauliflower.
  • Itching, burning, or discomfort in the genital area

  • Bleeding is possible with intercourse ​

If you notice such growths on yourself or your partner, consult a doctor working with the Women’s Health Care Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

Since you can never be sure simply by observation whether the growths you see are the cancerous type or not, it is always in your best interests to seek medical advice early. Again, during pregnancy, you would want to avoid complications. Thus contacting a health care provider is imperative at the first sign.

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. He​re are some tips to help get you started. ​​

For an accurate examination, your doctor will have a look at the affected area and may ask you whether he/she can proceed with internal examination. A special instrument called a colposcope may be used and it is possible that certain chemicals (acetic acid) may be applied locally for better visualization. Overall, you may feel slight discomfort but it is a painless process.​

A Pap smear test (sample from the cervix) may be done simultaneously and a biopsy might be warranted, as per the physician’s evaluation. ​

There are many ways to treat genital warts: some involve using a medicine and some involve a procedure. Even with treatment, it is possible that the warts will come back within a few weeks or months. This is because treating the warts does not necessarily get rid of the virus (HPV) causing the warts. Some cells in the normal-appearing genital skin and vagina may remain infected with HPV. There is currently no treatment that will permanently get rid of HPV in all infected cells. However, most people will clear the virus and the warts with their own immune systems within two years.

Out of all the following options, the best treatment will be decided based on how many warts you have, where they are located, and of course your doctor will take your preferences into consideration. On the other hand, warts do not necessarily need to be treated, especially if they are not bothersome.

1. Medical treatments:

Creams or liquids that dissolve the growth. You or your doctor must apply the recommended one to the wart one or more times per week for several weeks, until the wart(s) goes away.

2. Surgical treatments:

  • Freezing: liquid nitrogen is used, which will form a blister and allow the lump to fall off with healing.
  • Electric current, to burn off the wart

  • Laser, burns the blemish

  • Injections

  • Excision, simply cutting if off (under local anaesthesia)

These methods are often used in combination. Some surgical treatments can be done in the office while others are done in the operating room. Also, surgical treatments are considered safe in pregnancy, and may be recommended for:

  • Warts that do not respond to medical therapy

  • Large areas of warts, where medical therapy alone is often inadequate

  • Warts involving the vagina, urethra, or anus

  • Areas that have pre-cancerous changes in addition to warts

Treating the warts may not decrease the chance of spreading the virus because getting rid of them does not necessarily mean that the virus causing the warts (HPV) is gone. If warts come back, they usually do so within three to six months of treatment. Such a scenario is more common in women with a weakened immune system (such as diabetes, HIV, or certain medications like steroids).

There are certain vaccines which may have a role in preventing genital warts and cervical cancer. You may wish to ask your doctor about them.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.​