Oral warts are those that appear anywhere in or around the mouth or lips. They are harmless growths that generally occur as a single wart, or in some cases, a very small cluster. They can take on one of three appearances: a small round growth, a larger flat-looking growth, or thick leafy-looking patches of skin. They are generally not painful unless they’ve been opened, or perhaps suffered trauma during the eating process, and although they are among the least common form of warts, their incidence is increasing as more and more adults are participating in oral sex.
Oral Warts Causes
Like all warts, oral warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus which invades the broken skin. Despite a natural propensity for the mouth to suffer areas of broken skin, most healthy adults have immune systems capable of fighting off the virus. Where the immune system is not strong enough, exposure to the virus could lead to infection. Oral warts are most common in people with weak immune systems or those fighting immune disorders such as HIV.
There are at least three strains of HPV known to be responsible for oral warts; some scientists think there may even be an additional two or three. They can be spread very easily through kissing or oral to genital contact. Despite several societal myths, it’s nearly impossible to spread oral warts through sneezing, coughing, or standing too close to an infected individual.
Oral Warts Symptoms
The first noticeable symptom of oral warts is pain or discomfort when eating. Although these warts are generally painless if left entirely alone, the nature of the mouth and the eating process makes this almost impossible. Oral warts often suffer damage as we chew our food, thus causing mild to moderate pain. Upon inspection of the mouth, the patient should notice the raised areas of skin where warts appear.
If oral warts occur near the back of the mouth or at the base of the throat, they can make swallowing very difficult. You may also have the persistent sensation of a piece of food stuck at the edge of your throat. Finally, you may experience some minor bleeding if oral warts are damaged, but this is normally nothing serious.
Oral Warts Treatment
Oral warts almost always prove to be harmless and merely annoying. Sometimes, they even clear up by themselves over time. That said, doctors are very concerned with oral warts and attempt to remove them as quickly and safely as possible. The reason for this lies in the fact that oral warts could potentially lead to cancer of the mouth.
Due to the nature of the mouth, and the sometimes difficult to reach the location of oral warts, topical medications are generally not used in these instances. Rather, some sort of surgical removal is most often preferred.
Your doctor may choose to treat your oral warts through standard surgical removal, freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy), chemical injections, or laser surgery. Unfortunately, most of these procedures are painful and may require multiple treatments. Equally unfortunate is the fact that of all the different kinds of warts, oral warts have a higher tendency to return at a later date.
Because of the potential for these warts to lead to cancer, it is suggested that sufferers not try to treat them on their own. Always seek the advice and treatment of your doctor to ensure your oral warts are dealt with safely and effectively. Doctors also suggest preventing oral warts by refraining from any sexual contact with an infected person, and using condoms or dental dams when engaging in oral sex.