Genital warts are small, benign (harmless) growths caused by a viral infection i.e. Human papillomavirus, typically HPV 6 and HPV 11. A female with genital warts however is at an increased risk for developing cervical cancer. Genital warts often occur in clusters and can be very tiny or can spread into large masses on genital tissues.
Sexually active people who have unprotected sex are at risk of getting the virus that causes genital warts. As of yet, there is no cure for genital warts, although genital warts often clear up on their own.
How to Diagnose Genital Warts
Know that 90% of genital warts are caused by two strains of the HPV virus. When a person gets genital warts, it’s usually because they have contracted a form of HPV, or the human papilloma virus. Unfortunately, while there is no cure yet for HPV, the body often clears itself of HPV over time.
- Not all kinds of HPV will lead to genital warts. Genital warts may appear anytime from 6 weeks to 6 months after sexual contact, although they may not be noticed for years.
- Know that certain types of high-risk HPV strains can lead to cervical or anal cancer, although these strains are rarer.
Know the rarer symptoms of genital warts. Rarely, genital warts can cause symptoms not commonly associated with genital warts. These symptoms include:
- Increased moisture in and around the genital area
- Bleeding after sex
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Itching in the genital area
Know what genital warts look like. Genital warts are soft growths on and around the genital and anal area. Generally, the genital warts are flesh-colored and can be either raised or flat, larger or smaller, and look like the tops of cauliflower. Genital warts can look show up in different places depending on the gender of the patient:
- Genital warts in males can be found on the:
- Groin area, including the thighs
- Genital warts in females can be found:
- Inside the vagina or anus
- Outside the vagina or anus
- On the cervix, inside the body
Let a doctor examine your case if you think you have genital warts. A doctor will need to diagnose genital warts before allowing you to continue treatment. A doctor will diagnose through a visual exam and a pelvic examination in women. Several pap smear tests might need to be taken if an abnormal test appears, which is often the case with genital warts.
Home Remedies for Genital Warts
Use vitamin E oil and garlic. It’s official — garlic is the duct tape of the kitchen. If you want to stay away from western medicine (and vampires), garlic is how you do it. As for vitamin E oil, a good substitute is fish oil (super high in Vitamin E).
- For this method, rub the wart with the oil generously. Then, cover the area with crushed garlic. Place gauze over the wart (and garlic spread) and leave for up to 48 hours. After that window of time has passed, take it off and reapply.
Try apple cider vinegar. After a quick trip to the grocery store, you’re ready to start treating those bad boys. If you can stomach it, simply apply a bit to a cotton ball (just like with the castor oil) and leave it on the wart overnight. Wash it off in the morning. The warts should be completely gone (and with a noticeable difference in hours) in 2-3 weeks.
Try castor oil. This stuff has been used for ages for numerous medical purposes. If you can’t stand the smell (it’s rather potent!), mix it with a better smelling oil, like peppermint. There are a couple different ways to go about this method:
- Soak a cotton ball in the stuff and tape onto the wart. Change it three times a day, or as desired.
- Make a paste with baking soda and apply to the wart. Reapply every few hours. To avoid getting the mixture on your clothes, cover with gauze or a bandage.
Use tea tree oil. If you’ve heard of it working in the fight against acne, it works similarly on genital warts — with less of a burning sensation than apple cider vinegar. The research is still being done, but it’s promising.
- Apply it just like the castor oil — a soaked cotton ball should be left on the wart throughout the day (and night) until the wart has completely disappeared. The length of time is determined by the size of the wart — weeks to a few months, usually.
Take an oatmeal bath. If you didn’t already know of the wonders of oatmeal for your health (super food to the rescue!), it’s great for your skin, too. It won’t get rid of the warts, but it will lessen the irritation, pain, and constant itchiness.
Slice up an onion. Second in command to the all-powerful garlic is the onion. Though science may beg to differ, grandmas and housewives alike swear by the stuff. Take a few onion slices to the wart and cover with a bandage, letting the juices do their magic. Reapply every few hours.
Medical Treatments for Genital Warts
Treat the genital warts with several types of prescription and non-prescription creams. Do not treat genital warts the way you would a wart on your finger or foot. After obtaining a diagnosis from your doctor, you may receive one of several common topical creams used to treat genital warts:
- Podofilox. Podofilox, or Condylox, is a solution or a gel that is applied to the affected area. It is used in cycles for several weeks until the wart falls off. It clears about 45% to 90% of warts, although research shows that warts may reemerge in 30% to 60% of cases.
- Imiquimod. Imiquimod, or Aldara, is a topical immune response cream. It is applied to the wart and it causes less irritation compared to podofilox. In 70% to 85% of cases the initial warts are removed, but in 5% to 20% of cases the warts come back.
- Veregen and Polyphenon E. These are ointments extracted from green tea and other components. They are approved by the FDA to fight against genital warts.
Know that many cases of HPV and genital warts will clear up on their own, although this is not always the case. Women, especially, may be vulnerable to contracting HPV. Many men who are exposed to HPV never show any symptoms or problems associated with genital warts. Men (and women) who are exposed to HPV and do not show signs can still pass on the infection through unprotected sexual contact.
Discuss other options with your doctor. If your genital warts don’t respond to topical creams, your doctor might want to opt for several different strategies. Creams seem to respond better to warts that are on moist surfaces, while the following generally work better for warts on dry surfaces:
- Cryotherapy. Using liquid nitrogen, cryotherapy freezes the wart so that it eventually falls off. It helps remove warts, but there is no guarantee they will not come back anymore.
- Surgical removal. Minor surgery is conducted by an expert physician and administered with use of local or general anesthesia. The surgeon cuts off the cells of the wart with a scalpel.
- Trichloracetic acid. Common in uses for chemical peels and tattoo removal, trichloracetic acid is a chemical applied to the wart, effectively burning it off.
- Electrocautery. This procedure, less common than the other procedures, involves using an electric current to burn off warts.
- Laser surgery. Not advisable for use in all areas, laser surgery is often the last resort of none of the methods work.
Give your treatment time to work. As stated previously, many of the above treatments, along with a little bit of patience, will see the genital warts removed. If, however, three separate courses of treatment by your doctor, or six doctor-approved home treatments fail to remove your genital warts, your doctor will want to re-evaluate your course of treatment.
How to Improve Your Situation
Stick to a healthy diet. As with any infection, your body has to fight it off. In most cases, HPV will actually go away on its own. However, if you choose to do nothing, your case may get much, much worse before it goes away — if it goes away. Cover your bases and keep your immune system top notch.
- Eat a healthy diet. That means loading up on fruits, veggies, whole grains, and getting plenty of vitamins and minerals. The better you feel, the quicker your body can restore itself.
- Take efforts to ward off sickness by always washing your hands and keeping good hygiene. The fewer viruses your body has to fight off, the more it can concentrate on the issue at hand, clearing up the warts sooner rather than later.
Keep your genitals dry. A moist environment is a breeding ground for bacteria. If you don’t dry the area, you could be exacerbating the problem. Allows thoroughly dry down with a towel or use a blow dryer. If the warts are dry, they’ll heal more quickly.
- If you do use a blow dryer, use the low heat setting. You don’t want to hurt yourself!
Don’t scratch or itch at your warts. If you do, you risk bursting the warts open, causing the virus to spread and more warts to spawn. Now there’s a pretty picture. Try the oatmeal bath, a bath with calming bath salts, or applying a cold compress to relieve the itching.
- Spreading the virus is a concern you should have. Consider washing your under garments separately and in hot water, along with not wearing the same ones for longer than 6-8 hours.
Be careful where you apply your remedies. If you’re using creams and products dedicated to wart removal, make sure to only use them on the wart itself. If you get them on unaffected areas, it’s no party. Your skin can blister, redden, swell, and otherwise add to your laundry list of woes.
- That being said, make sure you have genital warts before you go treating these as genital warts! Applying apple cider vinegar to your genitals and spending the night moaning in a fiery agony is not the price you should pay for a particularly bad ingrown hair.
- Every home remedy known to man must be taken with a grain of salt. Some will experience success with one method while others write it off as complete myth. Know that whatever method you try, it is not guaranteed to work.
- HPV is a serious medical issue and should be treated by a doctor. Just because a wart is going away does not mean another won’t return in its place.
- Genital warts are very common. Most people, over their lifetimes, will end up with genital warts without even knowing it.
- HPV does not affect the general health of a pregnant woman or her ability to bring her baby to term.
- Liquid nitrogen is used in cryotherapy
- A diagnosis of HPV or genital warts in one person does not necessarily mean that person was sexually unfaithful to a partner.
- Podofilox can be administered to the infected person.