Human Papilloma Virus Overview
Contents of this article
If you are infected with a strain of HPV that causes genital warts, you may develop symptoms of genital warts anywhere from a few weeks to a few months after exposure. In some cases, though, the virus may lay dormant in your system for a few years before you develop any genital warts symptoms.
Genital warts are often said to look like little cauliflower florets. They are usually white or flesh-colored, may either lay flat or be raised, appear by themselves or in clusters, and can be found in or around the vagina or anus or on the vulva or penis. Generally, the warts themselves are not painful but they can interfere with normal bodily functions, such as urinating and bowel movements, making these actions painful and uncomfortable.
The net result is that very few people ever have the chance to place genital HPV in an accurate context, as the very common virus it really is. According to an article published in 1997 in the American Journal of Medicine, about 74 percent of Americans nearly three out of four have been infected with genital HPV at some point in their lives.
Among those ages 15-49, only one in four Americans has not had a genital HPV infection.
A common concern of women are bumps that they discover on the vulva. Before you panic, know that there are a several causes of bumps or pimples on the female genitalia and most of them are NOT contagious, NOT life threatening, and NOT STDs.
Here’s what you need to know
Cysts are common and can occur anywhere on the body. In the vulva (the area near the vagina) they often arise from a blocked skin gland. They often look like pimples or lumps under the skin. If fairly large or uncomfortable, it can be incised and drained by a doctor. Squeezing them on your own is NOT a good idea as it can cause the introduction of bacteria and cause infection.
A few common genital cysts in women include:
- Skene’s duct cysts. These occur on either side of the urethra (where you urinate). You can self treat these with warm compresses, or if large, it can be opened up by your doctor.
- Bartholin cysts occur on either side of the lower part of the labia majora, the outside of the vagina. They can become very large, like the side of a walnut and are usually noticed because of rapid growth in size and pain. Treatment includes warm sitz baths and incision and drainage if needed.
Blocked hair follicles, or folliculitis is probably the most common “bump” seen in the genitalia of men and women. The bumps are often irritated and tender. They are infected and may require antibiotics and a large incision and drainage to treat.
Clogged sweat glands can occur anywhere, including the genitalia. These sweat glands can be infected. Hidradenitis suppurativa is a condition causes painful clogged sweat glands anywhere on the body that are infected. They leave hard scars. Usually antibiotics and other medications are needed to treat. Fox Fordyce is a condition that causes nontender clogged sweat glands. Treatment includes steroid creams and other more specialized modalities.
Genital herpes is an STD. It usually causes itchy, burning and painful lesions that often start as a sore spot resembling a bug bite, but progresses over a few days to a blister or group of blisters and then an open ulcer. Treatment includes antiviral medications and pain meds.
Infection with subtypes 6 or 11 of the human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause genital warts. It too is a sexually transmitted disease. These “bumps” have a cauliflower like appearance. They are rough to the touch and can spread. Treatment includes applications of medications to freeze off the lesions or improve the immune system to fight the virus.
Molluscum contagiosum. This viral infection causes small, fleshy bumps on the vulva with a central indentation. They have a pearly color to them. They usually go away without treatment.
Skin tags are fleshy irregular shaped growths of normal skin that can occur on the vulva or elsewhere on the body.
And, there are a multitude of other causes of female genital bumps. While most are minor and require little or limited treatment, others are STDs. Therefore, if you discover a “bump”, be sure to get it checked out by your doctor!
Other rashes in the vaginal area
Other conditions that may cause a rash in the vaginal area include:
- Scabies, which is an itchy skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the outer layers of the skin.
- Pubic lice, which are small insects that live on humans and survive by feeding on blood.
- Yeast infection (cutaneous candidiasis), which may cause a rash in the moist skin folds of the vaginal area.
- Psoriasis, which causes raised red or white patches topped with silvery, scaling skin. The patches are most common on the knees, elbows, scalp, tailbone, and back, but may appear anywhere on the body (including the fingernails, palms, and soles of the feet).
Sores, blisters, or lumps in the vaginal area
Conditions that may cause a sore, blister, or lump include:
- Genital herpes. Genital herpes is a viral infection that causes skin blisters and sores in the vaginal area.
- Genital warts. Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection (STI). They are caused by various types of human papillomavirus (HPV).
- Bartholin gland cyst camera. Bartholin glands are two small glands located on each side of the opening of the vagina. These glands produce fluids that lubricate the opening to the vagina. If the opening to one of the glands becomes blocked, fluids may build up inside the gland, causing a painless lump called a Bartholin cyst. Bartholin cysts usually do not need treatment, but sometimes surgery may be needed to drain them. In some cases, one of the glands may become infected, causing an abscess, which may need to be drained.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sores, blisters, or ulcers, especially in the groin or vaginal area, may be the first symptom of several different STIs.
- An infected hair shaft (folliculitis). A red, tender lump may form when skin bacteria cause an infection at the base of a hair shaft.