Treating Genital Warts – Everything you need to know

Genital warts are (usually) painless lumps or growths, of varying sizes, that appear on the genitals, anus and upper inner thigh and sometimes inside the rectum, vagina or urethra. They’re usually skin-coloured, brown, pink or slightly grey and they can be flat or raised; singular, or in clusters. Some are so small they’re not detectable to the naked eye, while others take on the appearance of cauliflower.

Genital warts can be uncomfortable, unsightly, and if they grow large and spread, they can lead to pain, itching, burning and bleeding. They’re also highly transmissible to sexual partners. For these reasons it’s important that genital warts are professionally diagnosed and treated under a plan developed by a medical practitioner.

So while you’re waiting for your appointment, here’s what you need to know about genital warts:

What are genital warts?

Genital warts are (usually) painless lumps or growths, of varying sizes, that appear on the genitals, anus and upper inner thigh and sometimes inside the rectum, vagina or urethra. They’re usually skin-coloured, brown, pink or slightly grey and they can be flat or raised; singular, or in clusters. Some are so small they’re not detectable to the naked eye, while others take on the appearance of cauliflower.

How do you get genital warts?

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are sexually transmissible from person to person. They are usually spread via skin contact during sexual intercourse, and on rare occasions, through oral sex. After infection, the warts may appear immediately, or they may take months before becoming visible.

HPV itself is not immediately harmful. Many people carry it on their skin without developing warts and without being aware that they even carry the virus. Scientists are still unsure as to why some people carry HPV for years, (sometimes their whole life) without experiencing any adverse effects, while others immediately develop physical symptoms.

Treatment for genital warts

There are several effective treatments for genital warts that successfully remove the wart itself. However, it’s important to know that these treatments only eliminate the symptom – the wart – but they do not cure the cause – the HPV virus. Over time, most people’s immune systems will overcome the HPV virus, however some people will continue to develop warts for many years as HPV evades their immune system and lingers on.

Following are some of the most common treatments:

Podophyllin – a plant-based resin, made from the American Mandrake, with a good track record of treating warts since the early 1800s. Side effects may include mild skin irritation and it’s not recommended for use by pregnant women as there is some evidence it may affect unborn babies. Also podophyllin is not recommended for internal warts. The active ingredient in Podophyllin kills the wart tissue and the wart will slowly start to disappear around 3 days after first application.

Trichloroacetic acid – gives your warts a ‘chemical peel’. It’s used, in low strengths, to ‘burn off’ the wart. If used at strengths that are too strong, Trichloroacetic acid has the potential to cause serious skin burns, so for this reason, it’s important to only undertake this treatment under supervision of a medical practitioner. Trichloroacetic acid can be used to treat internal warts and treatment usually lasts 4-6 weeks.

Sinecatechins – extracted from green tea leaves, sinecatechins is a topical treatment that can be used to treat external genital warts – not internal warts. Treatment can last up to four months or less, depending on how quickly the warts disappear.

Surgical interventions – For particularly stubborn cases, surgical intervention may be required. Pain and swelling are common side effects from these procedures. Surgical treatments include:

  • Freezing with liquid nitrogen – induces a blister to form around the wart. Warts then slough off during the body’s natural healing process
  • Using an electrical current to burn off the wart
  • Surgically cutting the wart(s) out
  • Laser treatments – burns the wart using an intense beam of light

Note from National Custom Compounding: Working in conjunction with your doctor or medical practitioner, National Custom Compounding can make up solutions of Podophyllin, Trichloroacetic acid and Sinecatechins in specially formulated doses that are strong enough to be effective, but mild enough to minimise side effects.

For more information on the treatment of genital warts, contact National Custom Compounding on 1300 731 755 or [email protected]

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