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Genital Warts

Genital warts are a result of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the symptoms of which appear on the penis, scrotum as well as the anal area of males. In females, the virus spreads through the vulva, cervix and the rectum. In people practicing oral sex, genital warts can also appear on the mouth and throat, resulting in difficulty in swallowing. Genital warts vary in color from pink to red or whitish and gray, are irregularly shaped and generally painless until they become irritated by contact or sexual intercourse. The irritation may take the form of itching and burning that may at times be difficult to endure. Discomfort also increases as the warts increase in size or multiply into broccoli-shaped clusters and eventually ulcerate. These often bleed and/or give rise to a foul-smelling discharge. Severe pain during sexual intercourse for females may indicate genital warts within the vagina.

An estimated twenty million people in the US are infected with HPV genital warts (also called Condylomata Acuminate or Venereal Warts) every year while about five and half million are exposed to the virus during the same period. These warts normally appear within 3 to 4 months after transmission.

Genital warts in females often remain un-observed as the warts may stay confined deep within the epithelium of the vulva, urethra or the rectum, providing very little or no symptoms at all. However, the infection is fairly common in the age group of 15 – 40, affecting both sexes, while almost 70% of sexually active people infected with HPV remain unaware of the disease as the infection had caused neither any symptom nor an outbreak.

Genital Warts Diagnosis

Diagnosis can be extremely difficult, or impossible, if you are showing no symptoms. Unfortunately, people who show no symptoms can spread the virus to a number of people unknowingly. For this reason, it is very important to tell your partner(s) that you have been infected. If you do not show symptoms, but have been in intimate contact with someone who has, or you suspect has, HPV or genital warts, see your doctor immediately.

For males who do show symptoms, diagnosis will be much easier. Genital warts look like most other warts. Genital warts in particular will grow directly on or around the penis in males, and are easy to detect. They are fleshy growths, usually grey or reddish in color. They may also appear in or around the anus. There are very few other viruses or diseases that cause wart like growths – if you have a wart like growth, you can be quite certain that you have HPV – the next step is treatment.

For women, diagnosis can be trickier. Genital warts have been misdiagnosed (by amateurs) as yeast infections. With females, the warts may be inside the cervix or rectum. Although you cannot see the genital warts, they will usually cause some pain or discomfort during intercourse. If you suffer from pain and discomfort during intercourse you should always see your doctor whether you suspect HPV or not.

Genital Warts Treatment

There is no way to instantly cure genital warts. Your own immune system will eventually clear the virus DNA from your cells, and the warts will go away. Therefore, most treatments are based around relieving the symptoms. To treat genital warts, you have to try and manage the condition and control the spread of the infection while treating the symptoms. Genital warts treatment can also be achieved by both surgical as well as non-surgical means, both of which may prove futile as the warts are most likely to reappear even after the removal of present warts.

Prescribed treatments for genital warts vary depending on the doctor and the severity of the case. In some cases, doctors may prescribe Imiquimod as a topical cream. Other synthetics include podophyllin anti-mitotics, pidofilox, fluorouracil creams or trichloroacetic acids. It is important to remember that podophyllin and pidofilox should not be used by pregnant women. Interferon-alpha is another anti viral drug that is rather expensive but can remove a wart that is unresponsive to other treatments.

Beyond prescription drugs and substances that reduce warts, there are also surgical avenues. Cryosurgery (freezing and removing the warts) is very common and is used for various types of warts. Laser treatment is also used to burn off genital warts as is electrocautery. It is important to remember that all of these treatments do not prevent further wart outbreaks – they only treat the warts that are already present. Until your body clears itself of the virus with its immune system, warts can reappear at any time.

Genital warts treatment can also be achieved by the administration of drugs that have been developed using natural and plant extracts. Though this is a relatively recent development, results have been positive. Natural remedies, particularly for symptomatic relief, are gaining popularity largely due to their effectiveness and lack of side effects. Certain natural herbs and substances have been all but proven to remove warts and relive the pain of genital warts. When seeking treatment, always ask your doctor about natural remedies as opposed to prescriptions or synthetics that can have costly side effects (literally and figuratively!)


It’s good news that your body will eventually cure your genital wart outbreaks. In the meantime, please make sure you do not keep your HPV infection a secret from those you are intimate with. If you suspect you have genital warts, see a doctor immediately. Only your doctor will know what treatments you shouldn’t take, in reference to your medical history. Further, although HPV or genital warts are relatively easy to self diagnose, there are exceptions such as hirsuties papillaris genitalis which is quite rare but does appear as wart like growths. See your doctor, confirm the diagnosis, notify those you are intimate with and start treatment.


National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH)

American Academy of Family Physicians

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research


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