Genital Warts Treatment

Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). They are a very common STI in the United Kingdom, and while there is no cure for HPV; the symptoms themselves can be treated and managed very effectively. There are two main types of genital warts treatments: physical and medical.

Medical treatments for genital warts

Podophyllotoxin (Warticon)

This is a liquid used to treat small warts and clusters of small warts. It is applied to a wart and then works by poisoning and burning off the wart cells. It may cause some slight irritation during treatment. The treatment is normally given in cycles, with 3 days of use, followed by 4 days of rest constituting one cycle. It may take 4 or 5 cycles to remove the warts. The warts take around one month to disappear (sometimes longer) but do often return.

Imiquimod (Aldara)

This treatment is a cream that works best on larger warts. It works by assisting your body's immune system into fighting the warts. The cream is applied and left on for 6-10 hours and then washed off, this process is normally repeated 3 times a week and it may take several weeks before the treatment is complete.

There are some mild side effects associated with the use of Imiquimod, including hard/flaky skin, swollen skin, burning/itching, and headaches. These normally pass a couple of weeks after completing treatment. The warts take around 4 months to disappear (sometimes longer) but are less likely to return.

Imiquimod works by enhancing the body’s immune system to get rid of the underlying cause of the wart, HPV.

You can purchase genital wart treatment from our website.

Physical methods to remove genital warts

Cryotherapy

This method of treatment is normally applied to warts that occur on the shaft of the penis, or near (or on) the vulva. It involves freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen. This causes the outer membranes of the wart(s) to split, killing the cells of the growth. Sometimes it is necessary to freeze a wart, let it thaw and refreeze.

This form of treatment can be mildly uncomfortable and there is normally a small (or sometimes moderate) burning sensation during the freezing. It can take up to three weeks for the skin to heal after cryotherapy and it's a good idea to abstain from sex until it's fully healed.

Surgery

There are three main types of surgery for genital warts: excision, laser surgery and electrosurgery.

Excision, is essentially the cutting off of a wart. You will be given a local anaesthetic to numb the area, and then a scalpel will be used to cut the wart off. The wound will then be stitched afterwards. Excision is normally used on small warts that have become hard to the touch. In particular this treatment is used when a group of warts has grown together in a sort of cauliflower shape. It is not generally used on large warts as it may cause scarring.

Electrosurgery, is an option for large warts that have not responded to medicinal treatment. A metal loop is run round the wart and a current is passed through it, this burns away the wart. As the treatment can be painful, it is normal for a regional anaesthetic to be given to numb your whole body below the waist.

Laser surgery is for large warts that may be difficult to gain access to with other methods. For example; those that are deep inside the anus or urethra. It may also be used for pregnant women who have failed to respond to medicinal treatments. In this instance the warts are literally burned away with a laser. Depending on the severity of the surgery it may require either a local or general anaesthetic.

As with all forms of wart treatment, you should not have sexual intercourse until you are fully healed, this may take up to 4 weeks for excision or laser surgery.

Unfortunately all physical treatments for warts do not get rid of the HPV which is the underlying cause of the warts so there is a chance of recurrence of the warts.

 

Are you sure you have warts?

We’ve noticed that some of our patients are confused about different STIs. Warts are small firm or fleshy nodules that slowly grow or spread. They usually do not cause any pain or itching and often go unnoticed for weeks or months. Skin tags are small extra bits of skin that can feel like warts to some people.  If you’re not sure, then you need to see a doctor or send us a photo.



Last updated by Dr Christina Hennessey

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