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 What Doctors Don't Tell You: QUESTION FROM READER - GENITAL WARTS 
 
What Doctors Don't Tell You © (Volume 9, Issue 1)
Please find me an urgent cure for the genital wart virus! Every doctor or hospital clinic I have spoken to has told me the same thing: that once you get the virus you cannot get rid of it.

I cannot believe that in this day and age, when we have just landed on Mars, we cannot do anything to rid ourselves of what is supposed to be the most common of STDs.

I tried tea tree oil, which made it worse. I've been told that echinacea boosts the immune system, but don't know if it is used specifically for warts. L M, Cheltenham.,.........

If it's any comfort, yours is not an uncommon problem. The genital papillomavirus (HPV) is a highly contagious, sexually transmitted disease. You can also pick it up from objects (medical equipment, say, or even sunbeds) which haven't been properly disinfected.

In a recent study of 608 college women over three years, the cumulative incidence of infection was a whopping 43 per cent (N Engl J Med, 1998; 338: 423-8), with an average annual incidence of 14 per cent. Counting the women who were infected before the study started, some 60 per cent had the virus at some time during the three years it ran. The prevalence, at least in women, is thought to be from 20 to 46 per cent in a number of countries, and as high as 80 per cent in the US.

The received wisdom on the subject is that the virus lives forever once you have it, you never get rid of it. But, a study of college women conducted by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York found that the average duration of new infections was eight months. Dr Charles Lacey, a consultant genito urinary physician at St Mary's Hospital, and Britain's most knowledgeable source on the wart virus, says that it usually disappears within a year of the last wart appearing. Some studies have also concluded that HPV infection is transient; although it should be noted that these have been based on a small number of people who were only checked twice, and most of the studies concerned women (J Infec Dis, 1996; 173: 794-9; Br J Cancer, 1995; 72: 943-5; J Infec Dis, 1994; 169: 235-40; J Pediatrics, 1992; 121: 307-11). It's also been postulated that the older you are, the less likely you are to be infected, possibly because you've acquired immunity to HPV from past exposure (Sex Transm Dis, 1996; 23: 333-41).

Although it's called the human papillomavirus, there may be up to 60 types of viruses, and some (types 16 and 18, primarily) have been associated with cervical cancer. You are most at risk of infection if you are young, of Hispanic ethnic origin or black, have an increased number of sexual partners or high frequency of drinking while having vaginal sex, engage in anal sex or have an increased number of lifetime partners. Those who have the virus persisting for more than six months tend to be older, have the type most associated with cervical cancer, or are infected with multiple types of HPV. The fact that they have multiple types of HPV may mean that they have deficient immune responses to the disease. With some people, HPV acts similarly to the herpes genital virus, reappearing when they are under stress.

According to the New York study, those most likely to recover from infection were those who'd newly acquired it, and the longer you had the infection, the more difficult it was to lose it; some 39 per cent of patients had their infections resolved by the second half of the year they'd acquired it. The likelihood of overcoming the infection fell to 11 per cent by the next six months. The study concluded that HPV infection, in the main, is short lived abnormal lesions in the cervix often spontaneously resolve and so should simply be observed without being cut out.

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What Doctors Don't Tell You What Doctors Don’t Tell You is one of the few publications in the world that can justifiably claim to solve people's health problems - and even save lives. Our monthly newsletter gives you the facts you won't......more
 
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