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HPV/Genital Warts Health Center

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Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus) - Treatment Overview

There is no cure for HPV infection, but warts and cell changes can be treated. HPV infection that causes an abnormal Pap test will be treated differently than the HPV types that cause genital warts.

Genital warts caused by the most common types of human papillomavirus (HPV) may go away on their own without treatment. For this and other reasons, experts sometimes have different approaches to treating genital warts.

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  • Genital warts may disappear without treatment. This is the natural course of many genital warts.
  • Destroying large areas of warts is difficult and may cause scarring.
  • Treatment for genital warts does not eliminate the HPV infection. You may still be able to spread the infection. Condoms can help reduce the risk of HPV infection.
  • Treatment of genital warts can be painful, and warts may return after treatment. Warts that return after being treated usually are not treated again unless you want to be retreated. If you do, you would usually choose a different form of treatment.
  • Some doctors believe that treatment for genital warts will help prevent the spread of HPV infections and keep genital warts from returning.

Types of treatment

Treatments for genital warts include medicines, freezing, laser, or surgery.

The type of medical treatment for genital warts will depend on:

  • The number, size, and location of warts.
  • The side effects of treatment.
  • The skill of the doctor for each treatment option.
  • The cost of treatment, which varies depending on:
    • The cost of medicine.
    • Any specialized equipment used.
    • The number of treatments needed.
  • The problems caused by the warts (such as blockage of the urethra).
  • Your preference.
  • If you are pregnant. Some wart medicines should not be used during pregnancy.

Medicines

Doctors often recommend medicine applied to warts (topical drug treatment) as the first choice of treatment. A doctor will apply the medicines that have a high risk of causing damage to the skin around the warts. You can apply others at home.

Caution: Do not use nonprescription wart removal products to treat genital warts. These products are not intended to be used in the genital area and may cause serious burning.

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