Genital Warts Treatment

What Are the Treatment Options for Genital Warts?

Generally, genital warts don’t cause symptoms, but they might be painful, itchy, and unsightly. Luckily, there are a number of treatments that can help. For external warts, these treatments include:

  • Creams, gels, and ointments
  • Cryotherapy (freezing off the warts)
  • Surgery
  • Acid solutions

Which treatment your doctor recommends depends on things like how many warts you have, where they are, how big they are, and your own treatment preference.

Creams, Gels, and Ointments

Options for gels, creams, and ointments are imiquimod cream, podofilox gel, and sinecatechins ointment.

Imiquimod is a cream you apply yourself to external warts to boost your immune system. You use imiquimod 5% cream at bedtime, three times a week for 16 weeks. You put on imiquimod 3.75% cream every night. With either strength, you should wash the treated area with soap and water 6 to 10 hours after you put it on. Avoid sex while imiquimod is on your skin because it can weaken condoms and diaphragms.

Podofilox and podophyllin resin are gels designed to kill the warts. After you apply them to an external wart, let the area air dry before you put on clothing. Podofilox isn’t recommended for warts on the cervix, vagina, or anal canal. It isn’t meant for large areas, either. If you use too much or don’t let it air dry, you could spread the gel to other body parts and irritate your skin.

Sinecatechins ointment is made from green tea extract. You apply sinecatechins 15% ointment to warts three times a day for up to 16 weeks. Avoid all sexual contact while the ointment is on your skin.

If the warts are in a moist area or in a spot where skin rubs together, talk to your doctor before using a medicine that goes on your skin.

Do not use these medications If you’re pregnant.

Cryotherapy

Your doctor can also freeze the warts off using liquid nitrogen and a cotton-tipped applicator or a special device called a cryoprobe. The cold is applied for 10-20 seconds. If you have a lot of warts or if they’re large, your doctor may numb the area first with a local anesthetic.

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Surgery

This can get rid of all your warts in a single visit. After giving you a local anesthetic, the doctor can remove your warts using different methods. These include:

  • Cutting them off with scissors
  • Shaving them off with a sharp blade (this is called shave excision)
  • Using a laser to remove them (curettage laser)
  • Burning them off using electrocautery, a process that uses a low-voltage electrical probe

In most cases, you won’t need stitches after surgery.

Acid Solutions

Your doctor can use trichloroacetic or bichloroacetic acid to treat the warts. They’ll apply a small amount to the warts once a week and let it dry. This works best on small, moist warts and can be used to treat vaginal, cervical, and anal warts.

Treatments for Internal Warts

If you have vaginal or cervical warts, the recommended treatments are:

  • Cryotherapy or liquid nitrogen
  • Surgical removal
  • Acid solution

If you have warts in your urethra (the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to your bladder), your best treatment options are cryotherapy or surgical removal.

What If I Don’t Get Treated?

Genital warts may go away on their own or stay the same. If you aren’t treated, you could also get more or larger genital warts.

Genital Warts Treatment Side Effects

These are rare. They can include discoloring of the skin or scarring, especially if you haven’t had enough time to heal between treatments.

Rarer still is severe, chronic pain. If you have anal warts, having a bowel movement might become painful. You could also get a condition called a fistula, a tunnel in your skin that leads from your anus to the outside. You’ll need surgery to fix it.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on April 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Genital Warts,” “Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2015.”

American Academy of Family Physicians: “Management of Genital Warts,” Dermal Electrosurgical Shave Excision.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Genital Warts: Overview.”

American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons: “Abscess and Fistula.”

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