Genital warts (Condylomata acuminata) affect an estimated 10 million to 20 million Americans. As many as a million people contract genital warts each year; pregnant women and people with impaired immune systems are more susceptible than is the general population to this infection. Sometimes what appear to be genital warts are merely accumulations of normal skin that have no medical significance; about 1 in 100 men has these. But because genital warts are contagious, you should see a doctor if you discover any such growths.
Although the warts are harmless in themselves, there appears to be some link between genital warts and cervical cancer. Several studies have shown that 90 per cent of women who have cervical cancer also had genital warts. This does not mean cancer is inevitable, but if you have genital warts you should probably play it safe and get a Pap smear every six months.
Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus, or HPV, the same virus that causes warts on the hands, feet, and face. The virus lives inside your body's cells, where it replicates; eventually the virus breaks out of its original host cell to infect other cells.
Diagnostic and Test Procedures
Your doctor may want to take a culture to determine whether your warts are contagious. If you are a woman and are diagnosed with warts, make sure to be tested for cervical irregularities during your regular gynecological exams. Your doctor may take a Pap smear or insert a colposcope, a device to microscopically inspect the vaginal walls and cervix for abnormal cells.
Although there is no cure and no vaccine for genital warts, they are easily controlled and should in no way disrupt your life. About one-fifth of all warts disappear spontaneously within six months, and two-thirds go away after two years. Nevertheless, unlike warts on other areas of the body, genital warts should not be left untreated because they are much more contagious. And even though conventional treatments will remove the warts themselves, the virus remains in the body and may cause later outbreaks.
Do not attempt to get rid of genital warts with over-the-counter remedies. The genital area is too sensitive for these products and you could damage your skin. Instead, let your doctor remove warts with a chemical "paint" called podophyllin. Podophyllin treatment usually is effective within a few weeks. If you are pregnant, your doctor will want to use another treatment, since podophyllin may be absorbed into the bloodstream and cause fetal abnormalities. Warts may also be frozen with liquid nitrogen or solid carbon dioxide (dry ice), burned off with lasers, or surgically removed. Another treatment involves injections of Interferon Alpha, or Intron A. In some studies, the drug eliminated warts in half the subjects.
Because genital warts are contagious, you should see a physician before exploring alternative methods to help alleviate symptoms and prevent warts from coming back.
A doctor of Chinese medicine will give you a unique herbal prescription to cleanse your liver and build up your immune system. Ingredients may include Chinese foxglove root (Rehmannia glutinosa) and gentiana (Gentiana scabra).
To help heal warts, apply garlic (Allium sativum), or the juice of a sour apple, a dandelion stalk, a fresh pineapple, or fresh green figs. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) juice and the sap of a celandine stalk applied to the area may be beneficial as well. All have properties that are therapeutic to skin conditions.
A homeopathic physician will prescribe a treatment to strengthen your immune system. Some homeopaths may recommend that you apply Thuja occidentalis tincture to the warts. Sabina, taken orally, is another common remedy.
Several studies have shown that hypnotherapy may be effective in reducing or eliminating warts. Ask your physician if hypnotherapy might help you. Stress may also contribute to outbreaks, so find a relaxation technique that works for you. Many forms of meditation and self-hypnosis can be practiced at home.
Nutrition And Diet
To prevent HPV infections from recurring, eat plenty of food that contain Vitamins A and C, which help the body fight off infections, and folic acid, which strengthens the immune system. Both broccoli and spinach are good sources of these nutrients.
Apply tea tree oil (Melaleuca spp.) to warts to help them heal.
Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Meditate regularly. Try listening to guided meditation cassettes.
The best way to prevent genital warts is to use condoms. If your partner discovers a wart, insist that he or she see a doctor, and if the warts prove to be venereal, get tested yourself - even if you have no symptoms.
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