Genital Warts, one of the most common forms of sexually transmitted infections, are characterized by small pinkish or reddish growths that develop in the genital area. The warts can look like small parts of the cauliflower. They can be small and be invisible to the naked eye. They usually emerge in clusters of three. Although they are not painful, they can cause mild tingling, bleeding and itching.
More than half of the sexually active people will be infected with the virus that causes this condition at least once in their lives. This virus is called human papillomavirus (HPV). It has about 40 strains that can infect the genital area. The most common way of becoming infected with this virus is through sexual contact. For most people, their immune system is strong enough to kill the virus.
If the warts you have don't bring you pain or discomfort, as it is common for STDs not to bring any symptoms, you don't need to have treatment for this. But if the symptoms of itching, burning, and pain cause physical and emotional stress, it's a must to seek medical treatment.
Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara)
Treatments for genital warts may be applied onto the skin directly. One example is the imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara), a cream that boosts the immune function to fight genital warts more effectively. It's a must to avoid sexual intercourse while you have cream on your skin. Remember this can weaken condoms and diaphragms, and even cause irritation on the skin of your partner.
Other topical medications used are called podophyllin and podofilox (Condylox).
Podophyllin is a topical solution made from plants that can destroy the genital wart tissue. This one should be applied by your doctor.
Podofilox contains the same ingredient but you can apply this yourself at home.
These solutions should not be applied internally. They are also not recommended for pregnant women.
Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)
This is a chemical solution that burns off the genital warts. Only your doctor can apply TCA on the warts. Always keep in mind never to use over-the-counter wart removers for genital warts. These are not safe to use and may only worsen the pain and irritation.
Surgery may be recommended by your doctor for larger warts and for warts that don't respond well to medications. It's also the best recourse for women who are pregnant and do not want to expose their children to the warts during delivery. Surgical options include:
- using intense beam of light in laser treatment
- burning with electric current through electrocautery
- freezing with liquid nitrogen in a procedure called cryotherapy
- surgical excision or cutting off the warts with the use of special tools