Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause genital warts. The types of HPV that cause genital warts are usually spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or possibly oral sex with someone who has this infection. They look like skin-colored growths located in or around the genital and anal areas. Warts usually do not cause itching, burning, or pain.
In males, warts may appear on the penis, scrotum (balls), in or around the anus, or the groin area. In females, warts may appear around the vulva (entire outer female genital area), in or around the vagina, in or around the anus, the groin (where the genital area meets the inner thigh), or the cervix (although this is less common than external warts).
However, most HPV infections will not lead to visible warts and most people will not know they have the virus.
HPV and Types of Warts
There are more than a hundred different strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV). Generally, genital warts are classified into two types of low risk and high risk.
- Low-risk genital warts: Types of HPV virus that are associated with genital warts and do not lead to cancer in humans are genital warts of low-risk species. These low-grade types of genital warts include types 6, 11, 40, 42, 43, 44, 53, 54, 61, 72, 73 and 81. Types 6 and 11 account for approximately 90% of genital warts.
- High-risk genital warts: There are several other types of HPV virus that are very dangerous and lead to specific cancers such as cervical cancer, anal cancer and oral cancer. Genital warts include types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 68 and 69. According to research, about 70% of cervical cancer cases have been created by types 16 and 18.
Genital warts treatment
There is no treatment for the virus itself. Genital warts can be treated with different therapies. Treatments for genital warts are divided into Medications and surgical wares:
Medications: Genital wart treatments that can be applied directly to your skin include:
- Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara). This cream appears to boost your immune system’s ability to fight genital warts. Avoid sexual contact while the cream is on your skin. It may weaken condoms and diaphragms and may irritate your partner’s skin. One possible side effect is redness of the skin. Other side effects may include blisters, body aches or pain, cough, rashes, and fatigue.
- Podophyllin and podofilox (Condylox). Podophyllin is a plant-based resin that destroys genital wart tissue. Your doctor must apply this solution. Never apply podofilox internally. Additionally, this medication isn’t recommended for use during pregnancy. Side effects can include mild skin irritation, sores or pain.
- Trichloroacetic acid (TCA). This chemical treatment burns off genital warts, and can be used for internal warts. Side effects can include mild skin irritation, sores or pain.
- Sinecatechins (Veregen). This cream is used for treatment of external genital warts and warts in or around the anal canal. Side effects are often mild and may include reddening of the skin, itching or burning, and pain.
Surgery: You may need surgery to remove larger warts, warts that don’t respond to medications. Surgical options include:
- Freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy). Freezing works by causing a blister to form around your wart. As your skin heals, the lesions slough off, allowing new skin to appear. You may need repeated cryotherapy treatments. The main side effects include pain and swelling.
- Electrocautery. This procedure uses an electrical current to burn off warts. You may have some pain and swelling after the procedure.
- Laser treatments. This approach, which uses an intense beam of light, can be expensive and is usually reserved for very extensive and tough-to-treat warts. Side effects can include scarring and pain.