Ugly growths have appeared on your sex organs. You’ve heard about genital warts and that’s what your growths look like. Your head is spinning with questions and worries about your future. Is your sex life ruined? What do others living with genital warts do? Is it possible to ever have a normal life again? The treatments sound painful and expensive, even if you weren’t too embarrassed to consult a doctor. What happens if you ignore your warts? There must be something you can do, steps you can take to live with genital warts, but you don’t know where to start.
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Living With Genital Warts
HPV is tricky in that usually the only symptom is warts. If you aren’t aware of the warts, or if they never appear, then you essentially have no way of knowing that you’re infected. The majority of people never know they have HPV and they unwittingly infect their sex partners. A strong immune system can reject the initial infection. If you are infected, your immune system can often overcome HPV within a couple of years.
Although living with HPV warts doesn’t have much effect on your physical life, it is often mentally very stressful. For starters, you’re faced with telling your sex partner you’re infected.
This can be a little easier if you keep in mind that:
- HPV is a common virus that infects thousands of people.
- You did not do anything wrong by getting HPV.
- You are discussing facts, not confessing to being a bad person.
- You do not owe anyone an apology for having HPV.
The only wrong action is to knowingly infect another person by engaging in unsafe sex practices.
It’s essential that you tell your sex partner if you have HPV even if you don’t have an outbreak of genital warts at the time. Doing so can be uncomfortable at best. An important key to a successful discussion is to first learn all you can about HPV and come to terms with how you feel about the virus and its consequences. There are many resources available, including this site, that provide facts rather than myth. Share them with your partner. Knowledge is your BFF.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of HPV?
Unfortunately, many professionals tend to dismiss an individual’s distress over learning that he or she has HPV. That’s because it’s a common virus that many people contract and it rarely has serious consequences. However, researchers have confirmed that many HPV victims experience a reduced quality of life. Their studies indicate that health care practitioners need to consider the emotional aspects of HPV when they counsel individuals on the physical effects. Seriously consider consulting a mental health practitioner if you feel depressed, guilty, or down on yourself for having genital warts.
Some relationships can be destroyed when individuals don’t understand how HPV functions in a body. Genital warts don’t appear immediately after HPV invades the body. The most common incubation time is around two months, but the virus can remain dormant for years. Some people never get warts, but remain contagious. The delayed appearance of warts means that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to know when or from whom you contracted HPV. The appearance of genital warts does not mean that you or your partner has cheated.
You may choose to have your warts professionally removed. A number of medically safe treatments are available. You take a chance of making genital warts worse if you use over-the-counter remedies meant for other kinds of warts. For information on genital wart cream, see this article.
Warts that are not treated may go away on their own, stay the same, or increase in number or size. Because most genital warts disappear without treatment, individuals usually only have them removed if they grow, spread, or cause discomfort. Other individuals choose to have their warts removed because the growths are unsightly. The most important factor in choosing not to treat warts is a strong immune system. You strengthen your system when you don’t smoke, avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, eat well, and exercise.
If you become pregnant while you have genital warts or develop the warts after becoming pregnant, you need to keep your doctor informed. It’s possible for a newborn to acquire an HPV infection or warts during delivery, especially if you have warts in your vagina. You’ll find the answers to your questions about vaginal warts here.
Women with genital warts used to have to undergo a caesarean section to give birth, but many now are able to have their babies vaginally.
Factors affecting vaginal versus caesarean births include:
- Whether the size of the warts is large enough to obstruct the birth canal.
- Whether the pregnancy-related hormones are causing the warts to expand.
- The overall health of the mother and the unborn baby.
- The treatment choices made by the mother and her doctor.
- Whether there are other pregnancy-related complications.
Although genital warts can be safely treated while pregnant, the treatment methods are limited. Some of the medicines used in routine wart removal are harmful to unborn babies, so you must consult with a specialist for treatment.
Because several types of cancer are the result of HPV, you might be wondering if your genital warts will lead to cancer. The answer is no. That’s because there are more than 100 types of HPV, only two of which are responsible for genital warts. It’s possible to be infected with more than one type of HPV at a time, including one of the types that lead to malignancies of the cervix, the penis, and the anus. Cancerous lesions usually look much different from benign warts.
What Steps Should I Take If I Have HPV?
HPV is highly contagious, and life with genital warts can sometimes be stressful. You have to make decisions about seeking medical care, about the best treatment, if any, for you, and what to tell individuals with whom you are intimate.
Women who have an abnormal Pap smear may also have an HPV DNA test. All that does is identify the HPV type so that the doctor can select the correct treatment. There is no cure for HPV and there is currently not a test for men. That’s why it’s necessary to discuss HPV with potential sex partners.
Anyone that you have sex with needs to know that you have HPV before you give in to passion, even if you don’t have warts at the time. You also need to ask the individual if he or she has any STIs, which are sexually transmitted infections. Because HPV and other STIs are so common among sexually active individuals, you will likely discover that you aren’t the only one with a virus.
You can reduce the risk of infecting your partner with HPV if you:
- Talk to a medical professional about the HPV vaccination.
- Use condoms during vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
- Get regular checkups, including a complete examination of your genitals.
- Refrain from all sex if you have genital warts.
- Perform a self-exam on a regular basis.
You’re not out of line to ask that your sexual partner also follows these guidelines to avoid further infecting you. There’s more information on having sex with genital warts here.
Aside from engaging only in safe sex, the best thing you can do for yourself is to live a healthy lifestyle. That helps your immune system throw off the virus, and keeps you strong enough to not contract it repeatedly.
Following the above steps to stay healthy while ensuring that they don’t infect others is essentially all that individuals living with HPV have to do to have a normal life. You rarely feel any ill effects from the virus and there’s nothing to stop you from participating in your regular activities.
What’s the Key to A Normal Life With HPV?
When you have HPV, you have nothing more than a virus that thousands of other people have. The virus does not make you sick. It does not impair your ability to have children, nor does it shorten your life. What it does do is sometimes give you genital warts. The warts often go away without treatment, but if they don’t, you have a choice of treatments.
The key to having a normal life if you have HPV is to accept that you are completely normal. There’s nothing about HPV that makes you less than normal. You will need to practice safe sex, but that’s a normal thing you probably already do. Your life, including sex, can be just as satisfying as it would be if you didn’t have HPV.
Becoming prey to HPV and genital warts is not as life changing as you might fear it to be. People the world over live normal lives despite having the virus. It’s not wise to ignore your symptoms, so it’s a good idea to start with seeking professional advice. Then you’ll need to take steps to avoid transmitting HPV to others. That’s really all there is to living with HPV and genital warts.