An international survey of patients with genital warts: perceptions regarding treatment and impact on lifestyle

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Our aim was to determine country-specific attitudes and perceptions of patients with genital warts and to understand the psychosexual impact of the disease and its treatment.

We used a standardized discussion guide to interview patients with genital warts in Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the USA about their perceptions and concerns regarding the diagnosis, treatment, and psychosexual impact of the disease. Interviews were conducted in person and lasted approximately 30 min.

The study group included 80 men and 86 women with genital warts. Forty-seven per cent were currently undergoing treatment. Overall, 49% of the men had first consulted a general or family practitioner, and 52% of the women had first consulted a gynaecologist. Although all the patients eventually consulted a physician about their warts, one-third delayed seeing a doctor because they thought the condition would resolve on its own or that the problem was not serious. Most patients reported that treatment was associated with pain, discomfort, and embarrassment. Sixty per cent of patients experienced a recurrence after initial clearance with treatment. More than 80% stated that they had had little or no involvement in the selection of treatment. Globally, 52% of men and 61% of women were 'quite concerned' or 'very concerned' about having genital warts, although there were significant variations by country. Approximately two-thirds of patients had made lifestyle changes regarding sexual relationships. In addition, two-thirds believed that there were risks associated with having genital warts; the most common risk identified was a link to cancer (cervical and unspecified).

A high level of anxiety is associated with the diagnosis and treatment of genital warts. Patients with genital warts require understanding and an acknowledgement of their concerns. A better understanding of the psychosexual aspect of the disease by health-care providers is pivotal to effective disease management and patient counselling.

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