It is important that genital warts in women be diagnosed and treated in the early stages because the HPV virus can lead to more serious conditions such as cervical cancer. In addition, there is a slight chance that genital warts during pregnancy that are not caught in the early stages can be passed along to newborn infants during birth. Genital wart treatment options for pregnant women will likely be different than those used for other women.
If the cervix is infected by HPV, changes in the outmost cells layers may be detected in the early stages of genital warts. The changes in these cells are not cancerous, but they may be precursors to cancer. Researchers believe that aggressive HPV strains that are not caught in the early stages can activate cancer causing genes for a period of time. The cancer causing genes can interfere with certain protective proteins that control cell growth. It these protective proteins are not allowed to perform normally, rampant cell growth can result, leading to tumor formation and cancer.
Even if there are not precancerous cells involved, it is still important to have genital warts treated in their early stages. Like most health conditions, the chance of successful treatment of genital warts increases greatly when they are diagnosed in the early stages.
In some cases it may be difficult to detect genital warts in their early stages because some genital warts are too small to be seen with the naked eye. In those cases, doctors may apply a vinegar-like solution to the genital warts to cause them to turn white so they are easier to see. Sometimes doctors will use a high powered magnifying lens called a colposcope in order to detect warts in the early stages.
Some genital warts in the early stages will cause only flat lesions that barely elevate over the surface of the skin. These can also be hard to detect because they can be hidden by hair in the pubic area.
If genital warts are diagnosed in the early stages, there are many treatment options available ranging from topical creams that can be applied at home to medical procedures that may require multiple trips to the doctor's office. Medical professionals caution against self treatment of genital warts in the early stages because the chemicals in over-the-counter medications for genital warts are very strong and can cause serious irritation to the sensitive genital area.
GlossaryColposcope: A high powered magnifying lens used to diagnosis genital warts in the early stages.
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