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.
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