According to a strange mixture of fairy and old wives’ tales, frogs are the culprits behind warts (though if you kiss the right one, he may turn into a prince -- so, possibly worth the risk?). In real life, of course, we know that frogs don’t cause warts. Unfortunately, princes -- or rather, the humans we kiss -- CAN give us warts. And not the type that are on the bottom of your little toe, either.
Genital Warts are a sexually transmitted disease caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) -- our modern-day frog. There are over 40 different strains of HPV that affect the genitals and several are closely linked with cervical cancer in women.
In the past decade, vaccinations against many strains of HPV have become available for young women -- a tremendous step towards reducing the transmission of this STD, though not an immunization that offers full protection against cervical cancer OR genital warts.
Because there are so many strains of HPV and because boys are not yet encouraged to also get the vaccine (despite the fact that they often unknowingly pass the disease to a partner) it is simply one preventive step among others.
“Yikes!” you are saying. “I don’t want to kiss this frog! How will I know if the prince/princess I am kissing has HPV?”
Unfortunately, most men and women don’t present with any symptoms of genital warts -- at least not signs that are visible to the naked eye. When a woman has genital warts inside her cervix, they are flat and white -- not raised bumps the way we often picture warts -- making them very hard to see without assistance (though in some cases, they multiply and look like cauliflower-shaped clusters).
For the minority of people who do experience symptoms, they are vague or associated with a variety of ailments: pain or bleeding during sex, itching of the genitals, and small swellings near your genitals (uncommon).
If you notice these symptoms, speak with your care provider. Especially because of the close association between cervical cancer and HPV, it is important to address concerns sooner, rather than later.