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What are tips for how to treat genital warts?

Get tips for how to treat genital warts.

A doctor may prescribe topical solutions to treat genital warts, though there is no cure. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
A doctor may prescribe topical solutions to treat genital warts, though there is no cure.

If you have genital warts, you'll be relieved to know that outbreaks are treatable. The warts are caused by HPV (human papilloma virus), a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease that infects the skin.

What are genital warts?

Genital warts look like raised, flesh-colored bumps. They can be tiny and invisible to the naked eye, or they can appear in large clusters. If you develop genital warts, you should have them treated right away, because an untreated outbreak that starts out small can rapidly enlarge. There are several treatment options for an outbreak of genital warts, and all of them require a visit to a doctor or clinic.

A number of prescription medications are available that can be applied directly to the infected skin. Imiquimod (sold under the brand name Aldara) is a cream that helps the body's immune system fight off the outbreak; podofilox (sold under the brand name Condylox) is a skin treatment that destroys the wart tissue itself. A doctor also can apply an acid directly to the warts to destroy them. There are surgical options for more serious outbreaks; warts can be frozen off with liquid nitrogen, burned off with an electric current or cut off with a scalpel or laser.

Transmitting Genital Warts

HPV, the virus that causes genital warts, is highly contagious. Using a condom will significantly reduce your chance of catching or transmitting HPV, but if either you or your partner experiences a visible outbreak of genital warts, avoid any sexual contact until you are treated. There is also a vaccine, Gardasil, designed to protect women from HPV and the associated risk of cervical cancer, although it doesn't completely eliminate the risk. The vaccine is recommended for girls between the ages of 11 and 12, but older girls and women from ages 13 to 26 can be vaccinated as well.

Home Remedies for Genital Warts

If you have genital warts, you need to seek professional medical treatment; there are no effective home remedies. Over-the-counter products meant to remove other types of warts are not effective on genital warts, and may even be harmful. Don't be embarrassed to talk to your doctor or go to a clinic; genital warts are one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, and in many cases outbreaks can be easily treated. It's especially important to be in a doctor's care, since the virus that causes genital warts is linked to certain types of cancer. 

Your doctor can give you treatment options, including topical solutions and surgical removal, depending on the location and severity of the outbreak. He or she will decide how to address an outbreak of genital warts by assessing the condition's location and severity. But even though you can control outbreaks with your doctor, there's no cure for HPV so you will always be at risk for recurrences in the future, and there will always be a chance that you can pass the virus on to others through skin-to-skin sexual contact. Don't be embarrassed; talk to your doctor.

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