Genital Warts

What are Genital Warts?

Genital warts commonly present as small, skin-colored or pebbly bumps on the genital area. Sometimes they are too small to see. They are the most common sexually transmitted infection and affect more than 50% of the sexually active population.

What causes Genital Warts?

All warts, including genital warts, are caused by various strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are more than 40 strains of the human papilloma virus that are spread sexually. Most are killed by your immune system, while some warts continue to persist, and may require treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Genital Warts?

Genital warts are soft skin-colored bumps in the genital or pubic area. Sometimes they cluster together and can cause itching or discomfort. They can also cause bleeding during intercourse.

  • Women: Genital warts can be in the vulva, the vagina and the area between the vagina and the anus.
  • Men: Genital warts can be on the tip or shaft of the penis, on the scrotum or the anus.
  • Women and Men: Genital warts can also be found in the mouth or throat of an individual who has had oral sexual contact with an infected person.

How Are Genital Warts Diagnosed?

If you have any suspicious lesions, you should contact your dermatologist. Your dermatologist can often help evaluate external lesions the groin or peri-anal area. Women with genital warts should also follow with their gynecologist for further evaluation of their cervix, as some strains of genital warts can increase the risk of cervical cancer.

Can Genital Warts Cause Cancer?

A few strains of genital warts have been linked to cervical cancer. A pelvic Pap test can determine if you have a cancer-causing human papilloma virus. This is often performed by a gynecologist, which is why it’s important for women with genital warts to also follow with their gynecologist for further evaluation and regular screening.

How are Genital Warts Treated?

Do not treat genital warts with over-the-counter wart removers. Your dermatologist may suggest:

  • Imiquimod: A cream that helps genital warts by boosting the immune system. Often results some redness and irritation during treatment.
  • Podophyllin: A plant-based substance that your dermatologist applies to destroy genital warts.
  • Cryotherapy or Cryosurgery: Common office procedure in which liquid nitrogen is used to “freeze” and destroy the affected skin. Treatment often results in blisters which gradually crust and heal in 2-3 weeks. Warts may require a few treatments with liquid nitrogen before complete resolution.
  • Surgery or Excision: The lesion is anesthetized and surgically excised. This procedure is often reserved for larger or harder to treat warts.

Women with genital warts should also follow with their gynecologist for further evaluation.

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