If you experience itching or great discomfort in your private part, or you noticed small and flesh colored bumps in your genital area, then you may have genital warts, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in the world.
You may feel uncomfortable to talk about genital warts with your partner, friends or family members. The shame of having genital warts may discourage you from seeing a doctor. However, the good news is that this is a condition that is easily treatable.
What Causes Genital Warts?
Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It is the collective term for more than a hundred kinds of viruses that can lead to abnormal cell growth or changes.
An estimated 40 HPV types are known to cause genital warts, out of the more than 100 viruses classified under the HPV group. Other viruses can cause cancer, particularly cervical cancer. However, there are HPV types that would resolve on their own without the need for any intervention.
The virus that causes genital warts is spread through skin-to-skin contact. You might have gotten the virus through anal, vaginal, or oral sex with a partner who has the HPV virus.
HPV is so common that all sexually active adults would get it at some point, according to the CDC. You may even notice the symptoms years after you had sex with a person infected with HPV.
What are the Symptoms of Genital Warts?
In most cases, genital warts are so tiny you may not be able to see them. These warts are fresh or gray colored that are either flat or raised. In severe cases the growths are so ugly that they look like the top of a cauliflower.
For women, genital warts may likely be found inside your vagina or anus. It may also be located on a nearby area outside the private part. The warts may even lie on the cervix.
Genital warts in men are usually found on the penis and scrotum. These growths may also be found on the groin area, thighs, or around the anus.
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Genital warts are not only found in the genital area, they may develop on the tongue, throat, lips, and mouth.
There are other rare symptoms of genital warts like genital itching, vaginal bleeding during or after sexual intercourse, and increased vaginal discharge.
There may also be some dampness in the genital area, or close to the warts.
How to Get Rid of Genital Warts
A doctor might prescribe topical medicines that you can apply directly to the genital warts in order to get rid of them. Some of the prescription drugs for genital wart remedies are:
Podofilox is a topical solution that hampers the growth of certain types of cells. It may be used for the treatment of genital warts that are located on the outside of the body, such as the penis, thighs, penis, or groin area. It can be applied twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. This seven-day treatment cycle can be repeated up to four times, or until there are no more signs of genital warts.
Imiquimod is also a topical solution that is primarily used for treatment of actinic keratosis, a condition that is caused by overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays. However doctors also recommend it for the treatment of genital warts on the outside of the body. Simply apply a thin layer to the genital warts once a day before bedtime. The cream must be left on for more than eight hours, and then removed by washing it with water and mild soap.
- Veregan(Green tea extract ointment)
Veregan was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of external genital warts in patients 18 years old and above. The drug was developed by the German firm MediGine and contains defined green tea extract called kunecatechins.
The ointment is to be applied directly to the warts three times daily. Treatment should continue until the warts have been cleared. Avoid using it for more than 16 weeks.
Wartrol is one of the more trustworthy natural remedies for warts. It is to be applied directly on the genital warts. It contains menthol, salicylic acid, and ethyl alcohol. The main ingredient of Wartrol, salicylic acid, comes from the willow tree bark. It also has anti-inflammatory qualities, which can be used for easing aches, pains, and fever with extreme success rates. It can also neutralize bacteria to get rid of warts fast.
Wartrol also contains menthol, an organic compound derived from mint. It has anesthetic and counterirritant properties which can soothe itching and skin irritation. Ethyl alcohol, on the other hand, kills fungi and bacteria.
Minor Procedures for getting rid of genital warts
Apart from using topical solutions, you can go for minor procedures like electro cauterization, cryosurgery, laser therapy, and surgery to get rid of genital warts.
This procedure makes use of low voltage electrified probe to remove warts found on the vulva, penis, and around the anus. It burn the genital warts. This procedure is usually performed in a clinic, and would require injection of local anesthesia for pain control.The operation won’t cause a lot of blood loss, however the disadvantage is that it only works for small areas of warts.
In terms of efficiency in removing warts, electro cauterization has been found effective in getting rid of warts in eight out of 10 people. It can also stop warts from coming back six months after the procedure. Genital warts are also unlikely to return after the operation.
Electro cauterization won’t be able to cure the HPV infection because the virus will still remain in your body long after the warts have been eliminated.
There are also risks of electrocauerization, such as infection from the use of antibiotics. Pain would also persist, and you would likely be given medications after the procedure and to be taken for several days.
Expect swelling and soreness on the area after surgery on the part where warts used to be located. Scarring may also occur. The healing process may last up to four weeks.
In this procedure, the warts are frozen using liquid nitrogen. The tissues are then thawed, and frozen. During the treatment, you may feel some mild burning sensation.
Time of recovery time may depend on the location of the warts, as well as the number of warts that were removed. Healing would last from 1 to 3 weeks. You may experience some swelling, irritation, soreness, and even moderate pain in the area where the warts used to be in.
Cryosurgery is ideal only when the genital warts grow in a small area, usually near the anus. This treatment option is not recommended when the genital warts have become widespread.
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Another downside of cryosurgery is that you can’t have sexual intercourse, no even after the treated area has been completely healed and the soreness is no longer there, for a circa 3 weeks after the procedure.
One should also avoid excessive exercising or intense workouts to minimize the risk of post-therapy bleeding of the area. For women, you may also notice watery vaginal discharge.
Like electro cauterization, cryosurgery has been found effective in the removal of genital warts. Some studies indicate that it can remove warts in 90 out of 100 cases. However, there is still the risk that warts would grow back. As such, you may have to go through another treatment for warts removal.
In this technique, laser is used for destroying genital warts. Local anesthesia may have to be used depending on the amount of warts to be cleared, or the size of the affected area. It may be performed in a hospital or doctor’s clinic.
In most cases, doctors recommend laser surgery when medications have failed to remove the genital warts. It is also recommended when the warts have become widespread, or when the warts need to be removed during pregnancy.
READ ALSO: What is Cervicitis?
Recovery time in laser surgery would last from two to four weeks, or longer depending on the number and location of the warts removed. There are also numerous risks like pain, swelling, or itching in the area where the warts were removed. You may also experience fever or notice a yellowish discharge.
Similar to cryosurgery, you can’t have sexual intercourse after laser therapy until the treated area has healed and the soreness is no longer there. You would have to wait for 1 to 3 weeks after laser therapy to have sex again, depending on the size of the affected area.
Laser therapy is not as effective as the other treatment options for genital warts removal. There is also possibility of the warts returning after surgery and requiring a second treatment.
This method involves the surgical removal of genital warts by excision, or cutting the warts off using a surgical knife or scalpel. Local anesthesia is required to numb the area around the warts, while stiches would close the incisions.
Like cryosurgery, electro cauterization and laser therapy, recovery time would take up to four weeks. However, you can return to your daily activities in as short as a day after the procedure.
The procedure is very painful and there is high risk of bleeding and infection, although you would be asked to take antibiotics to reduce the risks.
Tips for getting rid of genital warts
Once you have the genital warts removed, doctors recommend that you use a condom during sex, so you can reduce the risks of spreading HPV.
Women should get pap tests to determine if there are any changes in your cervix, and can prevent death due to cervical cancer.
Avoid having large number of sexual partners.
Avoid having sex with partners who participate in high risk sexual activities.
Always use condoms, though condoms are not 100% effective in preventing HPV infection because the warts may be on a nearby skin that is not covered by the condom.