Genital warts are one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections in the UK, with Chlamydia being the only condition that is more widespread among the population.
The warts appear in the form of small fleshy growths that develop around the genital or anal area, with the human papillomavirus (HPV) being responsible for the affliction.
HPV in itself isn't one simple virus but rather a family of 100 different strains of various viruses, with type 6 and type 11 responsible for around 90 per cent of all cases of genital warts in Britain.
In the majority of cases the condition does not pose a significant risk to a person's health - indeed, the main issue is that they're often unsightly and, as such, may cause someone to experience psychological distress and a loss of confidence. This is the reason why - despite the warts being relatively harmless - it is important to have the condition treated and cured.
Yet there are two strains of HPV - type 16 and type 18 - that are responsible for causing more than 70 per cent of cervical cancers in the UK. While these are rare, it is still important to guard against them, and this is why the Gardasil vaccine was created.
The Gardasil vaccine:
A nationwide programme is currently in place to immunise young women against type 16 and type 18 HPV in order to protect them against the risk of developing cancer of the cervix.
Unlike previous vaccines, Gardasil also prevents type 6 and type 11 infections, meaning that women who have received the treatment should have a strong defence when it comes to genital warts.
However there are still other strains of HPV that can cause the warts, and men do not qualify for the vaccine so it's always important to take precautions in the bedroom.
How to prevent genital warts:
There is no definitive way to guard against HPV as it does not require sexual intercourse to spread - it only needs skin-to-skin contact.
As such, condoms do not provide 100 per cent protection when it comes to genital warts, although they can significantly reduce your chances of suffering from HPV. However, if you are being treated for the warts, it is sensible to avoid sexual contact altogether until the course of medication has been completed.
In addition to wearing protection when having sexual intercourse, it is also important to use condoms for oral sex if you may have genital warts, while dental dams can be used to cover the vagina or anal areas.
This also applies to sex toys, as sharing them with a partner can lead to one person passing the HPV infection to another.
As a result it is important to change the condom every time the toy switches hands, while washing it extensively is a good idea too.
Indeed, even though the warts do not always pose a threat to your health, it is important to guard against them to protect yourself and your partner from the distress that can result from the infection.