Genital warts

Written By Dr Surbhi, MD Skin

Last updated: 27/09/18

Have you noticed some warty growths in your genital area? Well, you should consult a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment of these growths, because they might spread very fast, making the treatment more prolonged and painful.

 

Wondering what these growths could be? They are most likely genital warts. That should be treated as soon as possible because they are notorious for spreading within days.


In this article, I have covered following aspects of genital warts:

  • Is genital warts common problem?

  • How do you get genital warts?

  • How do warts look like?

  • What are symptoms of warts?

  • Which specialist doctor should I consult?

  • What kind of treatment are given for genital warts?

  • What precaution should I take?

 

Is genital warts common problem?

Yes, Genital warts are very common among sexually active individuals, with males to female ratio of 2:1. In fact,  5-25% of patients with sexually transmitted diseases have genital warts. Underlying HIV infection increases the chances of getting genital warts.

 

How do you get genital warts?

Genital warts are caused by Human Papillomavirus, in short, called as HPV. The HPV virus from infected sexual partner enters into the genital skin of uninfected partner through the micro-abrasions that occur during the sexual intercourse.  There are 60% chances of spreading the infection between partners. The HPV virus might stay latent in the skin cells for 1-8 months, before producing micro-lesions that are not visible to our eyes. In many cases, these micro warts regress spontaneously or do not grow at all, until there is lowering of immunity of the person. Therefore, you might notice genital warts even years after the intercourse with the infected partner. Rarely, genital warts can occur from the wart on your or partner’s fingers.

 

 

How do warts look like?

Anogenital warts usually appear as pink to dark red soft to form growths, either single or multiple. In most cases, warts have irregular papillomatous surface and are pedunculated (means have thinner stalk at the base).

 

What are symptoms of warts?

Warts are in initial stage mostly asymptomatic and stay unnoticed until they become bigger or increase in number. Warts can lead to pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse. They might itch and soft warts might bleed as well. Genital warts do have a huge psychological impact on patients sexual life and might arouse the feeling of anxiety and guilt.

 

Which specialist doctor should I consult?

All the sexually transmitted diseases including genital warts are treated by Dermatologist. You should not make any delay in consulting the dermatologist even if you have a single small wart because they can be treated with minimum possible treatment with minimal chances of recurrences. On the other hand, treatment of multiple warts is painful, it might last for months, with 20-30% chances of recurrences.

 

What kind of treatments are given for genital warts?

The treatment for genital warts is decided by dermatologist based on the extent, type, site and pain tolerance of the patient. These treatments that can be done at home or in dermatologist clinic as follows:

Home-based therapy :

  • Imiquimod cream: Imiquimod helps in treating warts by enhancing your immunity to work against warts, it does not act on the HPV virus directly.
  • Podophyllotoxin: This is a toxic extract from a podophyllum plant. It destroys the wart tissue and might be very dangerous if overused or spill occurs on normal tissue.
  • Zinc: Zinc helps in immunomodulation and enhances the effect of other therapies.

 

Clinic-based therapy:

  • Podophyllotoxin: This is a toxic extract from a podophyllum plant. It destroys the wart tissue and might be very dangerous if overused or spill occurs on normal tissue. Therefore, few dermatologist chooses to apply this medication in the clinic itself.
  • TCA: Trichloroacetic acid is used to chemically cauterise the wart by a dermatologist.
  • Cryotherapy: In this, liquid nitrogen is used to destroy warts.
  • Surgical excision: Dermatologist might choose to surgically remove a resistant wart, but this is done rarely.

KINDLY NOTE:

  • Never self-medicate the medicines that are used for treating warts All the treatment of warts should be done under strict supervision of the dermatologist to avoid any side effects and toxicity because all these medications work by a destructive method and might harm you if used in a wrong way.
  • All the above treatments are associated with redness, irritation, ulceration and pain; the severity of side effects increases with the size and number of warts. Therefore, sooner you start the medication better it is.
  • Never trust quacks for treating warts. We have seen extensive warts after quacks treatments that might cause microtrauma in your skin and lead to widespread warts.
  • You can try homoeopathic medicines, but, if you don’t see any effect in a month or so, or if your warts tend to increase, you should consult a dermatologist without further delay.
  • Herbal or Ayurvedic remedies might help as listed in this article, in 1-3 small warts that too on the skin. It should not be tried if warts is on or near the mucosal surface. The later is quite possible in case of Anogenital warts.

 

What precaution should I take?

Warts are caused by HPV virus that can spread very fast, especially if there is slight trauma to your skin. Therefore, following precautions should be taken to avoid spread to oneself and partner:

  • Do not touch your warts frequently. You might inoculate the virus from your finger into the skin of your body, where ever there is a breach of skin barrier leading to more warts.
  • Do not shave the pubic area if you have warts in the hairy area, this can lead to multiple warts in full area, making the treatment very challenging.
  • Avoid sexual intercourse altogether until total clearance. Abstinence is highly recommended during treatment when the wart surface is raw, that further increases the chance of transmission. If at all you wish to go ahead, make sure you use the condom. However, condoms might not protect you against getting this infection, if the warts are on the skin that can still come in contact during the sexual intercourse despite wearing condoms.
  • Do not share your towels or soap. Though HPV virus does not transmit easily in this way, but you can still practice it.

 

 

TAKE AWAY MESSAGE:

Genital problems including warts might create anxiety and shame, that is likely to delay the treatment. However, we highly recommend you to see a doctor as soon as you notice a wart. Doctor, as part of the code of ethics, have to maintain the privacy of their patients and they do not disclose your illness to anyone.

 

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