Medical Q&As

Genital warts - no symptoms?

I am in a long relationship with a girl for over 18 months. A few months ago we decided to stop using condoms and rely on the pill alone for birth control. My girlfriend recently had a smear test and the result tested positive "for growths associated with genital warts". I have never had any symptoms of any STD, though I did have unprotected sex in a similar situation some years ago. My girlfriend says that I am the only one she has ever had unprotected sex with, though she did get infected with genital lice previously. She also says that she never has displayed any symptoms of genital warts. Is it possible or likely that the smear test was inaccurate or maybe indicative of something else like chlamydia? Is it possible or likely that she could have contracted the warts virus without any display of any symptoms?

To address your first question directly I donít think that your partnerís smear test was inaccurate or that the result could have been due to chlamydia infection. The HPV or human papilloma virus causes genital or venereal warts. It is the commonest form of STD (sexually transmitted disease) in the western world. Like many other forms of STD it may not have visible signs or symptoms. It is estimated that in almost half of all female cases of genital warts the woman is unaware that she is infected. Your partner illustrates this point because she was unaware of the presence of the virus until she had a smear test. This raises a very important issue because it means that people can spread the virus to several other partners who in turn can spread the virus to other people and all of this transmission can occur without any of the intermediary partners being aware that they are infected. Condoms can reduce the rate of spread of the virus. Genital warts are very contagious and it is estimated that about 60 % of people who have sexual contact with a partner with genital warts will also develop warts. The virus can be spread through oral, genital or anal sex. Fortunately the warts can be treated very effectively but the virus can survive leading to possible re-activation of the warts at a later date. I would suggest that both of you undergo screening for sexually transmitted diseases and also have a consultation with a specialist in STDs. As previously stated other forms of STD do not give rise to symptoms either therefore it is important that they also be excluded.