Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They typically appear on or around the genitals, anus, or mouth. Genital warts can be unsightly and uncomfortable, and they can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for genital warts.
Genital wart treatment
Topical creams containing imiquimod or podofilox can be used to treat genital warts. These creams work by stimulating the body’s immune system to attack the virus that causes the warts. They are typically applied to the affected area several times a week for several weeks. Topical creams can be effective for treating genital warts, but they may cause skin irritation. 5 fluorouracil, a chemotherapy agent used to treat precancers such as actinic keratoses may also be helpful in treating genital warts.
Cryotherapy can also be used to treat genital warts. Liquid nitrogen is applied to the warts, freezing and destroying the tissue. This treatment can be performed in a doctor’s office and usually requires multiple sessions. Cryotherapy can be painful and cause scarring. Care should be taken in people with darker skin as the treatment can cause loss of pigment.
Electrosurgery can also be used to treat genital warts. In this procedure, an electric current is used to burn off the warts. This treatment is typically performed in a doctor’s office and requires local anesthesia. Electrosurgery can be an effective treatment for genital warts, but it can be painful and may cause scarring. It is less popular of late as there is concern about virus particles in the smoke that occurs during treatment and risk of infection in the respiratory tracts.
Surgical excision involves cutting out the warts with a scalpel. This treatment is typically performed under local anesthesia in a doctor’s office or outpatient clinic. Surgical excision can be an effective treatment for genital warts, but it can be painful and may cause scarring. This procedure is sometimes done in combination with the application of chemodestructive drugs such as acid.
The most commonly used acids for treating genital warts include trichloroacetic acid (TCA), salicyclic acid or beta hydroxyacid (BHA), and podophyllin. These acids are applied topically to the warts, and they work by destroying the infected tissue. TCA and salicyclic acids are caustic acids that essentially burn off the warts. Podophyllin is a plant-derived resin that also has caustic properties. The treatment may require multiple applications over several weeks, and side effects such as skin irritation and redness are common.
What happens if genital warts is left untreated?
- Increased Risk of Cancer: Certain types of HPV can cause cancer, including cervical cancer, anal cancer, and penile cancer.
- Transmission of HPV: Genital warts are highly contagious and can easily spread through sexual contact. If left untreated, the virus can be spread more easily to others.
- Social and Psychological Issues: Genital warts can be embarrassing and may cause anxiety or depression, particularly if they are visible or interfere with sexual function.
Are genital warts curable?
Fortunately, genital warts are curable, but there is no cure for the underlying HPV infection that causes them. Treatments can remove visible warts and reduce the risk of transmission, but it does not eliminate the underlying HPV infection. Genital warts can come back. Therefore, it is important to practice safe sex and get regular screenings for HPV-related cancers, even after successful treatment for genital warts.
If you suspect you have genital warts, it’s important to seek medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment. It’s also essential to practice safe sex and use condoms to prevent the spread of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, the HPV vaccine is available and recommended for both males and females to prevent HPV infection and reduce the risk of developing genital warts and other HPV-related conditions. If you would like a consult to treat your genital warts, contact us here.
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