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Genital Warts

Vulval warts are unfortunately not uncommon. These are caused by variants of the Human Papilloma Virus which are close cousins of the virus that cause cervical cancer. As mentioned earlier, subtypes 6 and 11 are responsible for about 90% of all genital warts. Genital warts are therefore principally a sexually transmitted condition. The warts can greatly disfigure the external genitalia and extend into the vagina and/or around the perineum and peri-anal area (see image below). It can be a very distressing condition and can have a long-lasting impact on the person affected. There is also the fact that mGardasiledical treatment does not work very well and even when eliminated, the tendency for recurrence of the lesions is quite high.

The Gardasil vaccine includes protection against the HPV subtypes responsible for genital warts and this is the main reason most experts advocate this over the other vaccine, namely Cervarix.

Treating genital warts

Traditionally, genital warts have been treated with topical applications such as Podophyllotoxin cream and Imiquimod cream. These can be effective but there could be significant side-effects which tend to limit their use. Recurrence is also common on stopping the treatment. Sinecatechins 15% ointment is a relatively new treatment which got FDA approval in the United States in 2011. This is a green tea extract which has been found to be effective for most (not all) users. This needs to be applied three times a day for up to 4 months. However, it is also afflicted by the same problem of recurrence after stopping its use.  Other traditional treatment options include surgery where the lesions can be excised off or destroyed using laser or diathermy cautery.  However, even with this method, recurrence is not uncommon. This is why the availability of this vaccine to prevent the infection is such an important development.

The HPV vaccine is a very important milestone in our fight against cancer as well as a step in the right direction towards eventual elimination of vulval (genital) warts. I put its advent, not quite, but almost at par with the discovery of Aspirin and Penicillin. Unsung and shrugged shoulders at launch but now responsible for saved lives and wellbeing of billions of people across the world over the intervening decades. It is incumbent upon those in the know to spread the word.

Last update: October 08, 2012

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vulval (genital) warts