Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus or HPV)
How Are Genital Warts Treated?
Unfortunately, no treatment can kill the virus that causes the warts. Your doctor can remove the warts with laser therapy or by freezing or applying chemicals. Some prescription treatments are available for at home use. Surgery may be necessary for warts that are large or difficult to treat. Still, recurrence remains a problem. You may need to return to your doctor for more treatment.
What Happens If I Don't Get Genital Warts Treated?
Unfortunately, despite treatment, having HPV can increase your risk of cervical, penile, and rectal cancer. But not all forms of the virus are associated with these cancers. If you have genital warts, it is important to get annual checkups to screen for cancer.
How Can I Prevent Getting Infected With Genital Warts?
Your best bet at preventing infection is to abstain from sex or limit sexual contact to one uninfected person. If that is not an option, condoms may provide some protection, but condoms are not 100% effective, since they do not cover the entire penis or surrounding areas.
There are three vaccines available to protect against HPV:
- Gardasil protects against infection from four strains of HPV. Two of these strains, HPV-16 and HPV-18, account for about 70% of cervical cancers. The other two strains covered by the vaccine, HPV- 6 and HPV-11, account for about 90% of genital warts. The vaccine is approved for 9- to 26-year-old males and females.
- Gardasil 9 prevents infection by the same HPV types as Gardasil, plus HPV-31, HPV-33, HPV-45, HPV-52, and HPV-58. Collectively, these types are implicated in 90% of cervical cancers. It's approved for use in females ages 9-26 and males ages 9-15.
- Cervarix, which is formulated for females between ages 9-25, protects against HPV-16 and HPV-18.