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What Are Genital Warts?

Genital warts are a common clinical finding. In one study from Denmark, 17% of women aged 20-29 years who had had at least 1 sexual partner reported having had genital warts. In a study of privately insured individuals in the United States, there were 1.7 cases of genital warts per 1000 person-years. On average, each case required 3.1 physician visits for treatment and cost $436.

Genital warts result from a sexually transmitted infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is also the virus known to cause or increase the risk for cervical cancer. Both genital warts and HPV infection can and frequently do occur from sexual contact with asymptomatic individuals. Studies have shown that HPV can be detected in 17% of asymptomatic women in a low-risk population and in 44% of college students.

While there is no medical intervention that can successfully eradicate an HPV infection, there are treatments available. Ironically, in most cases, the viral infection will clear spontaneously over a period of 1-2 years. It is then believed to confer subsequent lasting protective immunity for that specific HPV subtype.

Created: 3/10/2004  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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