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Genital Warts and HPV Are They The Same Thing?

The answer to "Genital warts and HPV: are they the same thing" is 'yes' and 'no'. HPV and genital warts are connected in that some types of HPV can cause genital warts in some people. However, other strains of HPV cause other symptoms apart from genital warts.

Nearly 200 different strains or types of HPV or human papillomavirus have been identified and only some of these cause genital warts. Other types of the virus may cause common and plantar warts; others can cause changes to the cells which may lead to cervical or anal cancer. Symptoms only rarely are visible immediately; it can take several weeks or months for the warts to appear.

To further complicate things, even those strains that do produce symptoms of genital warts, won't necessarily produce them in all people. Because some strains of HPV have no symptoms, or some people won't get any HPV symptoms, or the symptoms could take some time to appear, people can be infected and become a carrier of HPV without being aware of the fact.

So, genital warts are the symptom of some strains of the human papillomavirus, but not everyone infected with these strains will get genital warts. Then there are many other strains of HPV that don't produce genital warts; they may have no symptoms or produce different symptoms like common warts on the hands.

The reason that genital warts and HPV are linked so often is that genital warts are a very obvious symptom, they make people more worried than common warts and that these strains of HPV are classified as a Sexually Transmitted Infection/Disease or STD.

HPV is contagious and it is believed that the strains that cause genital warts and cervical cancer are more highly contagious than others. Genital warts are not dangerous – they are unsightly, uncomfortable or even painful, but they are not dangerous nor do they lead to cancer.

Doctors are usually reluctant to remove genital warts when they first appear because they frequently go away without any intervention; the body's immune system removes the virus from the body. Only when the warts stay around or return frequently will the doctor consider one of the methods of removing them.

HPV and genital warts spread through skin to skin contact during vaginal, oral or anal sex with a partner who is a carrier of the virus, meaning they already have HPV whether they have any symptoms or not. Actual sexual intercourse involving penetration is not required for the virus to be spread; any contact with the genitals of an infected person may result in HPV being passed on. It is the most common STD - most people will contract HPV at some stage of their lives.

So, while some strains of HPV may cause genital warts in some people, not all strains of the virus will do so. HPV can be transmitted whether the carrier has any genital warts or not. The HPV strains that cause genital warts are not the same as those that cause or lead to cancer.

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