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genital warts

The condition is caused by the human papilloma virus

Chlamydia may be the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK, but genital warts comes a close second.

Unlike Chlamydia, the warts can be spread from person to person by skin-on-skin contact - sexual intercourse does not have to take place for someone to contract the condition.

While the warts themselves rarely pose any health problems, they can be unsightly and - as a result - cause a sufferer to experience a significant amount of psychological distress.

Indeed, the small, fleshy growths can lead people to lose confidence when it comes to the bedroom department, which is why it is important to have the infection cured so as people can get their sex lives back on track.

To guard against genital warts, the NHS says that a condom is your best form of defence - it will not provide 100 per cent protection, but it will reduce the risk that you'll contract the condition from your partner.

In addition to this, people are also advised to avoid sharing sex toys and - if they are - to make certain that they cover them with a new condom each time they switch hands.

The rule applies to oral sex too - men should wear condoms while dental dams can be used to cover the female genitals and the anus.

Here we'll take a quick look at exactly what causes genital warts, as well as the symptoms that can indicate you've picked up the condition from a partner.

Causes:

The condition is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is not one type of virus but a collection of more than 100 different strains of virus.

It's important to note that if you become infected with HPV, you may not necessarily immediately realise that you've got genital warts - it can take as long as a year for the growths to develop, and in this time period it is possible to infect your partners too.

However, the condition is at its most contagious when the warts have started to emerge, and anyone receiving treatment for the infection is advised to avoid having sexual contact with anyone else until they are completely cured.

Symptoms:

Once you've been infected with HPV, the warts tend to develop within two to three months, although as noted above this can take as long as a year to start.

The warts usually emerge differently in men and women - males will see growths that look similar to normal warts that can affect other parts of the body such as the hands, while women are more likely to experience smaller, gritty-feeling lumps.

Understandably, the main indicators are the development of the warts themselves, although these do not always grow externally - they can occur inside the anus too.

In rare cases the warts may cause itching and discomfort, but this is uncommon and most people will not experience any physical symptoms beyond the warts themselves.

If you do notice warts on or around your genital area, it is advised that you see a doctor who will be able to diagnose the condition and suggest potential treatments.