Genital warts are one of the most widely spread sexually transmitted diseases, but a lot of people still lack the knowledge regarding the nature of the said condition, how it is spread, and how to prevent or treat it. Clear, reliable, and updated information about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and genital warts is hard to find. The result of this unfortunate reality is the non-stop circulation of myths and misconceptions about genital warts.
Wrong information may bring about a lot of physical and emotional negative consequences to the sufferer. The person may suffer from extreme anxiety regarding his/her condition, undergo a painful and costly treatment method that otherwise could have been avoided.
Here are the most common myths and misconceptions to make readers understand what HPV and genital warts are.
Myth #1: Only women can be infected with HPV and contract genital warts.
Fact: The probability of getting infected with HPV and having genital warts is more or less the same for both sexes. However, genital warts symptoms seem to manifest more on women since their anatomy is a conducive breeding ground for HPV compared to that of men. The moist and warm environment of a woman’s vagina makes it a prime location for the HPV to thrive in and multiply.
Myth #2: I can only get infected with genital warts through unprotected sex.
Fact: There is no doubt that engaging in unprotected sex raises your chances of being infected with HPV. The virus can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Hence, some forms of barrier protection such as condoms won’t completely shield you against several STDs since they do not cover the whole genital region. HPV can also be spread through oral sex, manifesting in the form of warts in the throat and mouth areas. In addition, studies have shown that the virus can be passed on through direct contact with fomites, which are contaminated physical objects like bath towels and medical equipment.
Myth #3: The appearance of genital warts is the only thing that indicates their presence.
Fact: HPV, when spread, can remain in an incubation phase that can last from as fast as a couple of weeks to as long as several years. Hence, the symptoms of genital warts will most likely not appear immediately. In fact, a carrier of HPV may forever remain unaware that the virus is still within his/her system. Experts estimate that only approximately 1 percent of all sexually active Americans have visible genital warts.
Myth #4: Genital warts automatically lead to cervical cancer.
Fact: A different strain of HPV causes genital warts. These HPV strains are completely not linked to those that are known to cause cervical cancer, specifically types 45, 31, 18, and 16. Genital warts are caused by low-risk HPV strains, namely 44, 43, 42, 11, and 6.
Myth #5: If I have had genital warts, I will most definitely experience recurrent episodes for the rest of my life.
Fact: There are some cases wherein genital warts recur. However, they do so in different levels of persistence. However, if the immune system becomes compromised through temporary trauma such as stress, surgery, or serious illness, or through the intake of certain drugs, it may not be able to stop the reactivation of HPV so genital warts may resurface.