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The Treatment of Genital Warts
This is an article looking at the treatment of genital warts in detail, as well as an in-depth look at some of the science behind these treatments. If you have genital warts, and an understanding of what causes them but want to know what to do next, this is the right place to look for more information.
There are basically three options open to you if you want to get rid of your warts, and I’ll consider each in turn, talking about the pros and cons of each one. I’ll also briefly consider the HPV vaccine.
General Notes on Genital Warts
Warts are caused by a virus. Once you have this virus, it is in your body for good. You can have the genital wart virus and not the warts, of course, and this won’t cause you any additional problems. All of the treatments below, with the sole exception of the vaccine, do not treat the virus, they only treat the genital wart!
There is no cure for the genital wart virus, but it isn’t necessary to have one. Generally speaking, the genital wart virus is dormant and inactive most of the time, and most infections with it are benign. That means genital warts won’t cause you any additional problems and genital warts aren’t a serious infection to have.
Genital warts can have some long term effects on your health, though, so it is worth taking seriously, mostly in terms of avoiding spreading the genital warts to other people. If you are worried about the long term effects of the genital warts virus, have a look at some of the other articles on this site which can give you more information.
Because the genital warts virus that causes them will still be in your body, genital warts may always come back after a treatment. This is one of the biggest nuisances of genital warts, that they are not easy to treat.
Genital Warts Treatment via Course of Nature
The cheapest, simplest and most cost effective treatment for any wart, regardless of where it is on the body is to leave it alone!
Your genital warts are caused by one of many subtypes of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and are more or less exactly the same as any other wart. The difference is really only in where on your body they occur.
There isn’t a very exact period of time you can say genital warts last for. Once you have the genital wart virus, it will stay with you indefinitely. It may become active in times of stress, or if your immune system is compromised for any reason. It is only when the virus is active that you grow genital warts. But like any infection of the body, your immune system will develop a faster response each time it is exposed to the thing causing the infection - you develop an immunity.
A viral infection can be slightly harder for your body to detect and respond to because of the way that viruses hide in your own cells, but once it has worked out where the infection lies and which cells are infected, it will swiftly get rid of the culprits.
The genital warts virus is active in the cells that produce your skin, causing them to divide at a much faster rate than usual (hence the growth of the genital wart), but once the immune system realises this is caused by an infection it will isolate the area, stop the cells dividing and kill the infected ones, causing the genital wart to stop growing. After that, the skin carries on growing as usual underneath it, and eventually the genital wart is pushed entirely to the surface and shed from the body like skin cells usually are.
The major advantages of letting the body get rid of genital warts like this is that it is completely natural, and there is no risk of scarring. It is also free! The main disadvantage is that it can also take some time.
Everybody is different, but it’s not unusual for a wart to last a month or two, or even a year or two or more.
As genital warts are in sensitive areas, in terms of how sensitive the skin is and also how sensitive we are about their appearance, it would not be surprising if you want them dealt with more quickly.
There is another disadvantage. Genital warts spread by direct contact, so the extra annoyance of genital warts is that this means they count as a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD).
If you have decided to let nature take its course, in order to make sure you do not spread the virus to someone else, you should either abstain from sex or make sure you use a barrier protection method (condoms, for example) until the warts are gone.
However, this is true regardless of which method you decide to use - it is very important to reduce the risk of passing the genital wart virus on by either abstaining from sex or minimising the skin-to-skin contact involved as much as possible.
Once the genital wart has gone, there is far less risk of passing on the genital wart virus.
Your partner has a risk of getting the genital wart virus - remember that they can have the genital wart virus without growing any warts, or the genital warts may be very small and hard to detect. There is no test for this though, because almost all infections of the genital wart virus are benign, meaning they never exhibit symptoms and it goes away by itself.
Genital Warts Topical Treatments
For warts on other parts of the body, it is common to use mildly acidic solutions to reduce the size of the wart. These are available as genital warts creams, paints or lotions, and in all cases the theory is the same - you put it directly on to the wart, whose layers are broken up by the acid, reducing the wart in size until it is gone.
For genital warts, it is not quite as simple. With all these creams and lotions, the instructions will usually tell you to be careful in the application and to avoid getting it on other skin. The obvious reason is that warts are made up of skin cells that are growing faster than usual, so anything that breaks up a wart will also break up normal, healthy skin! As the skin round the genitals is thinner and more sensitive than many other parts of the body, so it becomes much easier to damage it painfully by slipping with the brush or with your finger.
Instead of an acid, with genital warts, the usual ingredient involved is a chemical that stops the growth of cells by killing them. This can either be done in one of a few ways:
Given that these genital wart treatments can take a while to be effective, may cause irritation to the skin around the genital wart and may be somewhat awkward to apply, there are downsides, especially if you consider that in the month that you should apply the home solution for, your body might have dealt with the genital wart infection anyway, but you aren't to know that.
All of the remarks I made above about reducing the risk of passing the genital warts on still apply - you should use barrier protection or abstain until the genital warts have gone.
According to Donald, the editor and web site owner, another type of topical treatment for genital warts involves applying essential oils to them. Amoils claim there genital wart treatment to be non scarring and is guaranteed effective in getting rid of genital warts, and you can read more about their genital wart treatment here. 100% organic and pretty cheap too.
Genital Warts Treatment : Surgical Removal
This is used only for genital warts that are especially large or have proved difficult to remove, there are a few techniques that can be used to remove genital warts by minor surgery.
These are not frontline treatments for genital warts, and the biggest drawback is that there is some small risk of scarring with all of them. For particularly big genital warts, it can also be necessary to treat them with a topical preparation first, so that they get smaller and easier to remove first, so don’t expect a surgical treatment to be a quick solution to your genital warts.
There are four different options, the availability of which may depend on what your doctor has a preference for or skill in.
For the first three, the local tissue and skin will be burnt or frozen too, and the inflammation this causes helps the body to replace the damaged and infection tissue with normal, healthy skin, as well as removing the unsightly genital warts. The same is true to a much lesser extent with the last option.
All of these genital wart treatments require a skilled medical professional, and a local anaesthetic, but are quick and simple operations to do. Some doctors can even perform cryotherapy in your local surgery without needing a referral to a hospital.
Genital Warts HPV Vaccine
There is a vaccine that provides immunity to the warts virus, such as is the case of genital warts.
At present, it is the only sure way of ensuring that you never catch the genital warts virus, short of abstaining from sex. It is only available for women, and is best administered at the age of 12 or 13, although it can be given at a later date, up to the age of 26 or so. It is not effective if you already have the genital warts virus, however - it can only prevent you catching genital warts, not cure you of it.
Other Genital Warts Treatments / Methods
Interferons (a kind of drug effective against warts) have been used successfully to remove genital warts. They need to be applied locally or by injections, but they aren’t commonly used because they are very expensive to manufacture and buy.
There are many genital warts herbal remedies, most of which act in a similar way to the topical treatments mentioned above - they stop cells growing, and may also have antiviral properties.
Always be careful if you are buying medications over the internet - whilst researching this article, I found plenty of sites offering medications to treat warts, and some of the claims they make are sometimes based more on advertising than science! Be sure that the medicine is right for you, and possibly ask a doctor’s advice on the specific drug involved before buying anything.
And in medieval times, sleeping with a toad under your pillow was thought to be a good way to treat warts, although quite possibly not very good for the toad.
Genital Warts Treatment Summary
The main things to remember about genital warts and HPV infections: -
Main write by Dr. James D. Hogg, (BSc Oxon, MBBS & BA Hons), medical doctor, and minor rewrite by D S Urquhart.www.wartsandgenitalwarts.com is an educational web site. It is NOT designed to diagnose nor treat but to offer understanding, ideas and options for you to discuss with your doctor first.
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