If you've developed bumps or growths on your genitals, you may have genital warts. While nothing can cure them, regular treatment can help you manage the discomfort.
Diagnosing and Treating Genital Warts at UVA Health
Diagnosing genital warts is generally possible with a visible exam. If you have them, your doctor will see clusters of raised or flat bumps. These bumps can appear:
- On the vulva
- In or around the vagina
- In or around the anus
- On the cervix
- On the penis, scrotum, groin, or thigh
- In the mouth or throat (rare)
Depending on your history and other symptoms, your doctor may collect a biopsy to confirm diagnosis.
Genital warts is caused by the virus HPV. While we can treat the symptoms, there is no cure for HPV. The virus stays in your body, and you may get warts again in the future.
Your doctor can prescribe medication that you'll apply directly to the skin. There are several medications available. Which is best for you will depend on location, sensitivities, and other factors.
It is very important that you don't try any over the counter wart removers.
Cryosurgery, Electrocautery, or Laser Treatment
Three treatments are available that will instantly get rid of warts:
- Cryosurgery (freezing)
- Electrocautery (burning)
- Laser treatment
These methods are used on small warts.
Surgery for Genital Warts
For very large warts, surgery may be necessary. Surgery is also sometimes used for warts that haven't responded to other treatments.
Preventing Genital Warts
The only way to prevent transmission is to not have physical contact with people who have them. Genital warts are always contagious, even when the bumps themselves are gone.
Because condoms don't cover the entire genital area, they can't prevent the spread. HPV can be spread through any skin-to-skin contact.
The HPV vaccine is almost 100% effective at preventing genital warts. It also protects against the strains of HPV that cause cervical, vulvar, oral, and anal cancers.
The HPV vaccine is given to kids at age 11-12. But if you are 26 or younger you can get "catch-up" vaccines.
For adults between the ages of 27 and 45, you may also be able to get vaccinated. In this age group, there are additional considerations based on your history. Contact your provider for more information.