Genital warts are a sexually transmitted disease in which the individual has growths around her genital area. These warts are caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV.
While there are more than 100 different types of HPV, only certain strains of the virus cause genital warts. About 90 percent of genital warts are caused by HPV types 6 and 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 500,000 to 1 million people each year get genital warts, noted Planned Parenthood. The warts can present six weeks to six months after becoming infected.
They may appear flesh-colored or gray. Sometimes, individuals have several warts that are close together, giving them the appearance of a cauliflower shape.
Women with genital warts may have them on the walls of their vagina or anus, the vulva, cervix, or the region between the anus and external genitals. Infected individuals may also have bleeding with intercourse and itching around their genitals.
Are there any cures for genital warts? Several treatments are available to remove the warts, but the MayoClinic.com noted that even with treatment, the warts can recur. The vaccine Gardasil can protect individuals from HPV types 6 and 11.
Treatment options for genital warts include medications and surgery. MedlinePlus warned that individuals with genital warts should not use over-the-counter medications intended for other types of warts. The medications used to treat genital warts include trichloroacetic acid, imiquimod, and podophyllin and podofilox.
Trichloroacetic acid burns off the genital warts, but needs to be applied by a doctor. Imiquimod boosts the individual’s immune system, but can weaken diaphragms and condoms, as well as irritate a sexual partner’s skin. Podophyllin and podofilox have the same active compound, but podophyllin must be applied by a doctor, while podofilox can be applied at home.
The MayoClinic.com recommended having a doctor apply the first podofilox to minimize irritation to the surrounding skin.
If medication is not successful at removing the genital warts, the warts are larger, or the infected individual is pregnant and may expose her baby to the warts during delivery, surgery will be done.
Four options are available:
- laser therapy
- surgical excision
With laser therapy, an intense beam of light is used to remove the wart. This type of treatment for genital warts is used when the warts are difficult to treat or if the warts are very extensive.
Cryosurgery involves freezing off the wart. Multiple sessions are needed with this treatment.
Electrocauterization uses electrical currents, which burn off the warts. If an individual undergoes surgical excision, she will need local anesthesia.
Planned Parenthood. Genital Warts. Web. 23 March 2012
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010: Genital Warts. Web. 23 March 2012
MayoClinic.com. Genital Warts. Web. 23 March 2012
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Genital Warts. Web. 23 March 2012
Reviewed March 23, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith