What are Genital Warts?
Genital warts are growths on the skin of the sex organs and possibly the anus. They are flesh-colored bumps that look like cauliflower. In women, the most common site is around the opening of the vagina. In men, the most common area is around the shaft or tip of the penis.
If you think you may have genital warts, or have been diagnosed with genital warts, don’t panic – genital warts can usually controlled with treatment, and you have some different options of how you want to treat them. If you think you have genital warts, it is important to seek treatment as soon as you can, and avoid sexual contact to avoid spreading the virus to your partner.
What are the symptoms of genital warts?
While the obvious symptoms of genital warts are the presence of the growths, many times, both men and women have no physical growths or obvious symptoms when they have genital warts. This means, that the virus can be spread between sexual partners even when neither of them exhibit any symptoms. Occasionally, there may be discomfort with intercourse, itching, burning for women with genital warts.
How did I get them?
Genital warts are caused by a virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV). Most genital warts are caused by one or two kinds of HPV types, 6 & 11. These viruses are passed from one person to another by skin on skin contact, usually during sex. The virus can be spread when an infected person doesn’t have any symptoms or physical growths at that time, but is most often contracted after coming in direct skin on skin contact with someone who has the lesions at that time.
How are genital warts treated?
The body’s immune system often destroys the virus and warts may go away on their own without treatment. You may choose to have them treated if they are uncomfortable, get in the way, or your clinician may recommend you have them removed. Your clinician will help you decide which method is best for you. Even though the warts may be treated, they also may come back. Warts are caused by a virus and the treatment is not necessarily a cure. The benefits of treatment is often resolution of the warts.
Chemical treatment option: The chemical treatment can be applied to the warts to destroy them or stop their growth. An acid called trichloroacetic acid (TCA) 80-90% will be applied to the warts. It must be applied by a clinician. Treatment is usually once per week and is most effective if left on each wart for 4 hours. Caution will be taken to prevent unintended skin burn. Be aware the chemical may cause a slight burn after treatment.
Imiquimod (Aldara) is a cream available by prescription which you apply at home. It stimulates your own body’s immune system to destroy the virus that causes warts. You apply it three times per week usually at bedtime. It should be washed off in 6-10 hours later. Treatment can continue if effective for 16 weeks or resolution. You must read all of the information regarding medication in every package insert! Overuse of this medication may cause skin destruction and burning or cracking of the skin.
- Keep the area clean
- Wash your hands after touching genital area
- Avoid sexual contact
- Don’t scratch the area
- Apply cool compresses to relieve discomfort or Tylenol or ibuprofen for mild pain.
- Call the clinic if unexpected symptoms such as: fever 100.4 or greater, bleeding, odor, pain unrelieved with Tylenol or ibuprofen.
After treatment, could my genital warts come back?
Once infected with the virus that causes genital warts, HPV, technically the genital warts could come back at any time, but they are often easily controlled with treatment.