Genital Warts: Symptoms, causes, risk factors, treatments and prevention

Genital warts are the most easily identified signs of infection caused by HPV (Human Papillomavirus). Having the alternative names of Condylomata Acuminata or venereal warts, genital warts are also common types of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Sources have disclosed that this kind of warts affects about 5.5 million Americans yearly.

Genital warts appear to be soft, moist, or flesh-colored bumps on the moist tissues of the genital area. They may resemble small cauliflowers which have an average diameter of 1-2 millimeters but may grow into large masses affecting not only genitals but also the anal area.

In males, genital warts are not common. If they do get infected, warts usually appear on the tip of the penis. However, infections may also be found on the scrotum and on the shaft of the penis. In women, genital warts may grow around the vaginal walls, on the vulva, in the cervix, and even around the anus. Genital warts may not always affect the reproductive parts of the body. It may also rarely develop in the mouth or throat of individuals who had oral sexual contact with infected persons.

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) or genital wart infection pose a serious health threat. Although treatments are available though medication and surgery, the virus is linked with cervical and other genital cancers.


Usually genital warts do not show symptoms or signs. Statistics even show that half of the infected women do not show visible signs of genital warts or HPV. This is due to the small size and color genital warts have. Acetic acid solution maybe applied to patients and Doctors may view them through a special microscope called colposcope in order to ascertain these warts.

Although genital warts are oftentimes painless but may be troublesome because of its size, location, or its itching. Genital warts may initially appear to be red or pink swellings. Eventually these bumps would grow or group into clusters forming a cauliflower shape.

In some instances where the genital wart maybe located at urethral opening, the infection causes bleeding or urinary obstruction. Constant burning and itching in the genital area may also be a sign of genital wart infection. During sexual intercourse, there may be cases of discomfort, pain or bleeding.

Genital Warts: Common Causes

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of genital warts. HPV causing common warts are not the same as those virus causing venereal warts. HPV comes in a number of types and only 2 specific types (6 and 11) of this virus can cause genital warts. These kinds of HPV have the potentials of causing cancer as well. In fact, 50% of the determined HPV has been associated with premalignant and malignant cervical cancer in women.

The skin and mucosal surfaces of the genitals are the main affected areas of HPV. This virus is highly contagious through direct skin-to-skin contact or sexual activity. Two-thirds of individuals, who had sexual contact with infected persons, develop genital warts within three months.

Genital Warts: Risk Factors

Having multiple sex partners, unprotected sex, and having sex at an early age are few of the risk factors of genital warts. However there are non-sex oriented factors such as alcoholism, cigarette smoking, poor hygiene and nutrition. Persons with illnesses affecting the immune system may also be at risk of contacting genital warts.

Aside from the previously mentioned cancers that may develop due to HPV infection, the virus may present a threat during pregnancy. Sometimes genital warts may grow larger in size and may cause obstruction during urination or delivery.

Pregnant women are also at danger of transmitting warts to their infants. Babies, during birth, may acquire warts from their mothers’ infected cervical areas or birth canals. Usually infants contract warts in the throat which can block breathing passages. Laser surgery is then necessary to save infants from the life-threatening effects these warts.

Genital Warts: Medical Attention

It is advised that you contact your doctor at the earliest signs of painless bumps in your genital area. Warning is also given to cases where your sexual partner has developed genital warts.

Since genital warts are common to women, females are recommended to have a Pap test upon reaching the age of 21 or within three years after first sexual contact. Certain changes may occur in the cervical and vaginal areas caused by warts or HPV infection that are to be monitored. The regularity of a Pap test or pelvic exam depends on the condition of an infected female. For severe cases, it is suggested to have regular check ups every three to six months. If you have successfully achieved a normal test of 3 times in a row, then you can reduce your number of your Pap tests.

Genital Warts: Complications

There are only few strands of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which can cause cancer, but it is still medically suggested for females to have regular Pap tests. Pre-cancerous diseases affecting the vulva, anus, cervix and even the penis, are treatable if acted upon at a very early stage.

Complications of genital warts may greatly disturb pregnancy. These warts may grow in size inside vaginal walls causing the vagina to be less elastic which can lead to difficulty in urinating and obstruction in delivery of the child. Infants also have potential risks of acquiring warts from their infected mothers. Laryngeal Papillomatosis (warts in the throat) may develop in these infants upon delivery. Although it rarely occurs, the blocking of the air passages of an infant due to these warts can cause a life-threatening condition. Research has discovered that laser surgery can help cure the disease.

Genital Warts: Treatment

Medical experts can offer you treatment for genital warts either through medications or surgery. However, doctors acknowledge that no single treatment can totally eradicate genital warts moreover with the underlying virus. It may eliminate warts at a certain period but it does not guarantee 100% of the disease not coming back.

1. Genital Warts Medications

Contemporary medications are available for treating genital warts. Most of these medications are skin applications and can be used as substitutes for other treatments.

Genital Warts: Imiquimod (Aldara): This new medication strengthens your immune system to fight against genital warts. It is applied as a cream so skin irritation maybe a common side effect. Because of this, sexual contact while on this medication is to be avoided as it can irritate your partner’s skin and can impair condoms and diaphragms.

Genital Warts: Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA): TCA is applied topically and always by the doctor. As the name suggests, the medication may cause pain and burning while eliminating genital warts. The effect is usually incomplete and warts have greater chances of recurring.

Genital Warts: Podofilox (Condylox): Genital wart tissues are the specific targets of Podofilox. This medication is also good for prevention. Initially, doctors are the ones who apply the cream to your skin. This is because certain precautionary steps are to be followed to avoid surrounding skin irritation. Podofilox is intended for external use only and should never be applied internally.

Podophyllum Resin (Pod-Ben-25, Podofin) Another medication usually applied by a doctor, Podophyllum Resin has less cure rates than Podofilox.

Genital Warts: 5-Fluorouracil (Efudex): Also a skin cream, 5-Fluorouracil is intended for long-period treatment. However, a number of side effects can occur like burning and irritation.

Genital Warts: Interferon alpha-n3 (Alferon N): When all other therapies do not render effective, this medication can be applied as an injectable. It can also have many side effects on the duration of treatment.

Over-the-counter genital warts medications are strongly discouraged. They do not only cause more pain and irritation but generally these medications are not for moist tissues in the genital area.

2. Genital Warts Surgery

Depending on certain factors, laser surgery maybe necessary to eliminate genital warts. The larger the warts and the more resistant they are to medications, the more you should consider surgical options.

Genital Warts: Cryotherapy This involves the freezing of the wart, applying liquid nitrogen or a “cryoprobe”. The wart sheds off as your skin heals from the treatment and eventually your new skin appears. Repeated Cryotherapy treatments may mean better response rates. It is also considered a better first-line treatment because it has very few side effects.

Genital Warts: Laser Treatments For tough-to-treat warts, laser surgery is a better treatment. Although this would cost you higher than any other treatment, laser procedures are effective for extensive and recurrent genital warts. HPV lesions are physically eradicated by the laser. General, local, or regional anesthesia maybe required before undergoing such procedure. Patients of this treatment may suffer scarring, increased healing time, and potential virus particles caused by the laser plume.

Genital Warts: Electrocautery/Electrodesiccation This technique utilizes electric current to burn the warts. Just like in laser treatments, the resulting plume may be infectious. Local anesthesia is needed with this procedure.

Genital Warts: Surgical Excision Special tools maybe used by doctors to remove warts. This procedure can be done with local anesthesia.

Traditional Treatments

Medicinal uses of Salicylic Acid: Genital Wart Treatment

The name “salicylic acid” is derived from the Latin word “salix” which means “willow”. This is because salicylic acid is formed from a substance called salicylate, an extract from the bark of a willow tree. This willow bark extract has been known since the ancient times as a natural remedy for several illnesses, including aches and fever. With the advent of science and pharmaceuticals, salicylate has been changed into its more usable form, the salicylic acid. The actual chemical name for salicylic acid is 2-hydroxybenzoic acid (C6H4(OH)CO2H). As salicylic acid, this substance now has several medicinal uses, most of which are related to skin disorders.

Salicylic acid is the active ingredient of several formulations that are used to treat calluses, corns, and acne. Acne is essentially a skin lesion that has the potential to destroy a person’s confidence. This is why people with acne desperately seek the help of a dermatologist, who may suggest an individualized acne therapy. Such can be prohibitively expensive. An alternative treatment is the use of salicylic acid topical. Salicylic acid works by making the outer damage skin easily shed off. When the skin is sloughed off, the pores will not be clogged anymore.

Salicylic acid is also the natural remedy for dandruff, an abnormally excessive shedding of dead skin at the scalp. Dandruff has several causes (oily scalp, fungi, alkali shampoos) but it can be treated by several remedies. Anti-dandruff shampoos have different active ingredients such as selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione, and salicylic acid. Salicylic acid, as a natural remedy, works by restoring the acidity of the scalp and by inhibiting the spread of the fungi.

Salicylic acid is the alternative treatment for warts. Warts are caused by a virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV). When this virus attacks, benign tumors appear on the epidermis or outer layer of the skin. There are several treatments to warts, such as the use of trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and formalin. A more expensive treatment for warts is the cryotherapy, which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and kill the affected cells. But the HPV is not killed by this method. Instead, the HPV is spread. Theoretically, the skin’s own immune system will kill the HPV, and this is why blisters can be seen after getting a cryotherapy.

The most common herbal remedy for warts, however, is the salicylic acid topical. In using salicylic acid for warts, the warts must be either pared or scrubbed, and then soaked in warm water. Right after, the salicylic acid must be carefully applied on the surface. Then, the whole affected area, already treated the natural remedy, must be allowed to dry. This use of salicylic acid must be patiently repeated until the warts are gone.

Salicylic acid is not just a natural remedy for skin disorders. When salicylic acid is reacted with the alcohol called methanol, the salicylic acid becomes methyl salicylate, which is known as the oil of wintergreen. This substance is the active ingredient in liniments. Salicylic acid can also become acetylsalicylic acid, which is known as aspirin, a popular substance used to treat headaches.

Natural Alternative for Salicylic Acid: Genital Wart Treatment

Salicylic acid comes in many dosage forms. These are creams, gels, lotions, ointments, pads, plasters, shampoos, soaps, and topical solutions. These forms are normally safe but in using salicylic acid, one must keep in mind that salicylic acid could be toxic if used excessively. Therefore, a person must exercise caution when using salicylic acid as an alternative treatment to many skin diseases.

Being derived from an extract of a willow bark, salicylic acid is considered an herbal remedy for illnesses such as warts, corn, acne, and even dandruff. But being an herbal remedy does not imply that it can be used without a doctor’s supervision. Natural herbal remedies are just as potent as the ones which are synthetically produced.

When using the salicylic acid as a natural remedy, one must avoid placing this substance over sensitive areas such as the eyes, lips, nose, and genitals. One should not place the salicylic acid in wart removers over birthmarks and moles. And one should avoid using salicylic acid when his skin is burned, chapped, or broken. The salicylic acid, as a natural remedy, may not help but worsen the burn or the open wound.

When one plans to use salicylic acid as an alternative treatment, one should first consult the physician, especially if one is suffering or undergoing treatment for other diseases such as diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disease. The salicylic acid may interfere with the medication of such diseases. And the physician may not advise the use of salicylic acid during such circumstances. At the same time, pregnant and breast-feeding women are advised to avoid using salicylic acid.

How to use the salicylic acid as an herbal remedy will differ, depending on the dosage form. For example, salicylic acid in lotions must be shaken first so that the emulsion inside have a good distribution of salicylic acid. As plasters for warts and calluses, the salicylic acid must be applied only after the warts and calluses have been cleaned and dried. As for salicylic acids contained in soaps, shampoos, and pads, the person must carefully check the label for instructions.

One should also remember that salicylic acid, as a natural remedy, is relatively gentle. That is, one will not find immediate and radical results. Instant results are not often safe. Thus, one should keep using the dosage of this herbal remedy for the prescribed duration.

Once a person has been using salicylic acid as an alternative treatment to skin disorders, he should also watch out for side effects. Side effects of using salicylic acid are rare, but when there is intolerable burning or alarming discoloration, a person should again consult a doctor.

The salicylic acid usage may not agree with other forms of topical treatment. This means that one should avoid using the salicylic acid in combination with tinctures, astringents, alcoholic cleansers, and other abrasives. One must keep in mind that salicylic acid, as a natural remedy, works by helping the outermost skin layer slough off. Thus, one should avoid using other peeling substances.

Natural Alternative for Imiquimod: Genital Wart Treatment

Genital warts are a type of sexually transmitted disease (STD) which is caused by a virus known as HPV (human papilloma virus). This virus creates a wart-like bump on the penis, around and in the vagina, and around the anus. Genital warts are also known as condyloma and this disease can be passed from one person to another through sexual intercourse or, sometimes, oral sex.

One way to deal with genital warts is to use the herbal remedy known as Imiquimod. As a topical alternative genital wart treatment, Imiquimod exact action is still not known by doctors and scientists. But this natural remedy has shown positive effects against external genital and perianal warts. Imiquimod is also used for actinic keratosis, a disease characterized by wart overgrowths in various parts of the skin.

In using Imiquimod, one must remember that the treated area must not get wet. This means that one must not take a shower or go swimming until such time as indicated by the instructions for using the Imiquimod, which is about six to ten hours. One must also remember that the skin will become more sensitive to sunlight if Imiquimod is applied on it. Thus, a person using this particular alternative genital wart remedy should also avoid exposing himself or herself to too much sunlight. But if being exposed to the sun cannot be avoided, then one should wear some form of protection, such as hats and long-sleeved clothes. Likewise, one with sunburn should avoid using Imiquimod.

Imiquimod, as a natural remedy for genital warts, does not exactly destroy the virus. That is, some users of this alternative genital wart treatment may experience having new warts developing on the skin. One will just have to continue the prescribed medication. And one is cautioned against having any physical relationship for the duration because Imiquimod has not shown any capacity to prevent the spread of genital warts. Imiquimod, as an herbal remedy, is simply an “immune response modifier”.

To apply Imiquimod on the affected area, one needs to rub the cream until the cream is no longer visible. This natural remedy is usually applied once a day, for two days in a week. The application should be about 3 to 4 days apart, and not daily. And the whole duration of using this herbal remedy will be for about four months, unless, of course, one’s doctor has prescribed otherwise.

After six to ten hours of applying this alternative treatment to genital warts, the Imiquimod can be washed off by mild soap and water. The hands, too, should be washed thoroughly, both before and after applying this natural remedy on the affected areas.

The person using the Imiquimod should also watch out for possible side effects. If the side effects are serious such as difficulty of breathing, swelling of lips and tongue, and having hives, one should immediately stop using Imiquimod. But one may still use this alternative treatment to genital warts, with the supervision of a health professional, if one is experiencing only these symptoms: headache, muscle aches, fatigue, diarrhea, itching, and scabbing of skin.

Natural Alternative for Podofilox: Genital Wart Treatment

The virus that causes genital warts is called the human papilloma virus (HPV). It can be found in adults who have active sexual lives. This is because the genital wart is a sexually-transmitted disease. Some adults who have the genital warts virus may not show the outward symptoms, which are the itchy bumps that vary in sizes. These adults become carriers of the HPV and spread the genital warts disease. As for adults who show signs of the presence of the HPV or genital warts, they immediately consult a specialist doctor.

The specialist doctor may likely recommend the use of Podofilox, a topical herbal remedy that are used to remove the genital warts. As an alternative genital wart treatment, Podofilox is for external use only. That is, the Podofilox treats genital warts found on the outside skin of the penis, the rectum, and the vagina. But Podofilox is not recommended to treat warts inside the genitals.

Before using the Podofilox as a natural remedy for genital warts, one should first inform the doctor if one is already taking medications for other diseases. And if one has a history of allergies due to medications, this fact should also be mentioned. Upon knowing such allergies, the doctor will decide whether one may or may not use the Podofilox. Sometimes, a person with allergies may still use Podofilox as a treatment for genital warts. But the dosage may be different. Women who are pregnant or who plans to get pregnant must may also need an adjusted dosage of Podofilox. And women who are breast-feeding are not advised to this alternative genital wart treatment.

To use Podofilox, one should strictly carry out the instructions of the doctor. In fact, Podofilox, as a natural remedy for genital warts, should be applied only on the lesions that have been identified by the doctor. This means that one should not use Podofilox on other parts of the skin. And most important of all, Podofilox should not be applied on healthy skin.

Podofilox, when used a natural remedy for genital warts, is applied with a disposable applicator. Then, this treatment is applied two times a day, preferably in the morning and in the evening. Podofilox, is also used for three consecutive days, and then followed by four days with no treatment at all. Such days are referred to as the whole “treatment week”. A person may need to undergo three to four treatment weeks of Podofilox.

When using Podofilox as an alternative genital wart treatment, one may experience some side effects. For some side effects, a person may still continue using Podofilox, but he needed to be closely monitored by the doctor. These side effects include itching or a burning sensation, inflammation or pain on the affected area, an ugly stench, and pain during a sexual intercourse. But if side effects are worse, such as allergies and excessive pain and bleeding, a person should immediately stop using this herbal remedy.

Lastly, when one misses a dose of Podofilox, one should not take a double dose of it, to make up for what was missed.

Genital Warts: Prevention

Let’s go back to the basics; genital warts are caused by HPV which is a sexually transmitted virus. Logically, practicing safe sex is one way of preventing outbreak of genital warts. The use of condoms doesn’t entirely protect you from the risk of acquiring warts because you can still be in contact with infected genital areas. If your partner has developed warts, you may have to abstain from sexual activity until warts are cured. First time infections of genital warts may require the other partner also to be examined for necessary treatment.

Because there are no 100% guarantees to the medical treatment of genital warts, the spread of HPV must be prevented. Development in medical treatments may promote vaccination to counter HPV-related diseases such as cervical cancer and genital warts. Recent studies have shown that an HPV vaccine has been rendered effective in preliminary studies. Although the public may not avail of it in the next few years, scientists are continually testing the vaccine for its safety and effectiveness.

Other Types of Warts:

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