Genital warts is a complication caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It was discovered by a German virologist named Harold zur Hausen while he was doing experiments on a different disease called the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).1
While taking a break from his work, zur Hausen read reports that women with genital warts were developing cervical cancer. Coincidentally, he learned that a certain animal papillomavirus caused warts and cancers in rabbits.
Based on this observation, he surmised that a similar type of papillomavirus was causing the warts and the subsequent cervical cancers.
Following this line of thought, zur Hausen eventually discovered that there were many HPV strains that can cause genital warts and cervical cancer in women.2
There Are Different HPV Strains That Can Cause Genital Warts
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there are over 100 strains of HPV present today. However, it is important to note that only two of them (HPV-6 and HPV-11) can cause genital warts.
In some cases, these two strains may cause respiratory papillomatosis, a rare disease that causes tumors to grow in your air passages leading from the nose and mouth into the lungs. In contrast, there are currently 13 HPV strains that have been linked to cervical cancer.3
How Do You Get Genital Wart?
Human papillomavirus is mainly transmitted through sex (including oral and anal sex), which makes this illness a type of sexually transmitted disease (STD). They may spread and develop in other places as well, such as your hands.4
The warts may appear in nearby places such as the upper thighs and anal region. Men may discover warts growing on the scrotum and urethra.5
Diagnosing genital warts is usually done via visual examination. The symptoms have a characteristic look, and if your doctor has handled cases of genital warts before, he or she may be able to confirm your symptoms immediately. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may perform a biopsy to check if you really have genital warts.6
Risk Factors for Getting Genital Warts
The risk factors for genital warts are similar to other sexually transmitted diseases, which include:
• Having unprotected sex: It’s important to use condoms during sexual intercourse to help prevent the spread of HPV and other STD-causing microbes. This is especially important for those who have multiple partners, or have sexual intercourse with a person whose sexual history is unknown.
• Oral sex: Performing this type of sex can increase your risk of developing warts in the oral region.
• Early sexual activity: Young people who engage in sexual activity have a higher risk of getting HPV, most probably due to having a weaker immune system.