The diagnosis of genital warts happens with the help of tests such as pap test, acetic acid test, HPV test and tests to rule out other conditions such as molluscum contagiosum and pearly penile papules.
Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted disease. It can be usually diagnosed by clinical examination (that is by visual inspection). Your doctor will take a detailed medical history before diagnosing genital warts. The doctor may ask questions related to your current symptoms, duration of symptoms, sexual history, history of any other sexually transmitted disease and other medical problems. Tests such as acetic acid test, Pap test, colposcopy and HPV tests may be recommended in some cases.
Acetic Acid test to Diagnose Genital Warts
As many genital warts cannot be easily seen with the naked eye, your healthcare provider may do acetic acid test. In this test, 3- to 5-percent acetic acid solution (vinegar is 5-percent acetic acid) is applied on the penis, cervix, labia, or around the anus to make the flat genital warts which are not visible; noticeable. The warts become white and conspicuous when exposed to the acetic acid solution. But the test may be positive in several other conditions such as yeast infections, psoriasis, and lichen planus.
Your doctor may recommend a Pap smear. Experts recommend regular pelvic exams and Pap tests for women as it can help to detect vaginal and cervical cancer in early stages. Cervical cancer is a leading and possibly fatal complication of genital HPV infection. In this test, your doctor will take a sample of the cells from your cervix which is the passage between your vagina and the uterus. The cells in the sample are checked under a microscope for abnormalities.
Colposcopy: This is a test which can help to detect signs or symptoms of genital warts on the walls of vagina and cervix. A special instrument is used to closely examine the vagina and cervix for abnormalities.
The cells taken during the Pap smear from the cervix are tested for cancer-causing HPV strains (as only some strains of HPV such as HPV-16 and HPV-18 cause cancer). The test is generally done in women older than 30 years.
Your doctor may recommend tests to rule out other conditions such as molluscum contagiosum, pearly penile papules, bowenoid papulosis, and skin cancer including squamous cell carcinoma or malignant melanoma and seborrhoeic keratosis as these conditions may cause similar signs or symptoms.
These are some of the tests which may be done in a person with genital warts if the diagnosis is not clear or a complication such as cervical cancer is suspected. Your doctor may recommend other tests based on your signs and symptoms.
Read more articles on Genital Warts Diagnosis and Prognosis
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