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HPV/Genital Warts Health Center

Understanding Genital Warts -- Diagnosis and Treatment

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How Are Genital Warts Diagnosed?

Usually genital warts are diagnosed by an exam. Warts have a characteristic appearance, but your doctor may want to take a biopsy (a small sample of tissue) to determine if the lesion is really a genital wart. 

If you are a woman and are diagnosed with warts, make sure to be tested for cervical irregularities by a pelvic exam and Pap smear. 

Understanding Genital Warts

Find out more about genital warts:

Basics

Symptoms

Diagnosis and Treatment

A regular Pap test is very important. If your pap is abnormal, you may also need an exam with a colposcope, a device used to microscopically inspect the vaginal walls and cervix for abnormal areas. Samples taken during Pap tests can screen for the virus and for pre-cancerous lesions that may be caused by the virus.

What Are the Treatments for Genital Warts?

Untreated warts may resolve on their own, stay the same, or enlarge. Treatment focuses on removing visible warts. However, even after visible warts are removed, the virus may cause future outbreaks. Also, treatments may or may not decrease the risk of passing genital warts to someone else.

Treatment is not always necessary. To decide whether you want to have warts removed, talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits in your individual situation.

IMPORTANT! If you are pregnant or planning to have a baby, you should talk with your doctor about getting treatment to avoid HPV-related complications. It is rare, but possible to pass HPV to your baby. Also, make sure your doctor knows that you are pregnant before he or she prescribes medication for your warts; some drugs may cause birth defects.

Don't attempt to get rid of genital warts with over-the-counter remedies. The genital area is too sensitive for many products and you could damage your skin. Instead, see your doctor, who may provide treatment or prescribe a drug for you to apply to the warts yourself. Medicines that can be applied include podofilox (Condylox) and trichloroacetic acid (TCA), which kill the wart tissue, or Aldara, a cream that stimulates your immune system to fight the virus. Other options include freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen, cauterizing them with heat or a laser, or removing them surgically. Whatever method you and your doctor choose, several treatments may be needed.

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