Treatment for genital HPV can be difficult
because often people don’t know they’ve been infected because they have no
symptoms. Once there are visible signs (meaning once warts appear), it can take
several treatments before the warts are completely gone.
There are two types of HPV infections. Both
types of infections happen when the HPV invades the skin cells and mutates the
cells and makes them grow abnormally. These abnormal skin growths, or lesions,
show up as warts and are usually non-cancerous.
The HPV-1 virus most often causes the first type of infection. It’s transferred through non-sexual touching and causes warts to appear on the arms, legs, feet, hands, and sometimes the face and neck. Non-sexual HPV is usually easily treatable with over-the-counter medications or topical prescriptions. Sometimes the warts are removed by a qualified doctor who uses special freezing techniques.
The second type of HPV infection is spread sexually and is usually referred to as genital warts. This virus infects the skin cells of the genital areas of men and women, including the area of the inner thighs. Warts inside the mouth and throat are also referred to as genital warts because they’re most often spread through oral sex with an infected person.
Even when the warts disappear after treatment, the infected person is not cured. The virus stays in the skin and can lie dormant for the rest of the person’s life. This means that an infected person might never again have any visible genital warts. But this also means that an infected person could have recurring breakouts months or even years after any visible warts have been removed.
Treatments for genital HPV infections are cosmetic since there is no known cure for the virus. There are a variety of treatment regimens available and treatment choice is determined by several factors. These factors are:
- the number of warts
- the size of the warts
- potential side effects to the treatment
- convenience for the patient
Those infected with genital warts should never try to self-treat. They should always go to a doctor. If the number and size of the warts is very small, then the doctor might suggest the infected person allow the warts to go away on their own.
If the outbreak is large and unattractive, the doctor might offer a couple different methods of removal. Removal of the warts is commonly done in two ways:
Chemical genital wart removal is regularly done using topical creams.
Surgical removal involves seeing a specialist who puts the patient under local anesthesia. The local anesthesia temporarily reduces sensation and the ability to feel pain in the genital region. Then the warts can be frozen or removed using other surgical methods.
Other surgical methods include:
- Excision. This procedure involves cutting away the wart. It is usually used for very large warts since the procedure is very painful and takes a long time to heal.
- Diathermy, also called electrocautery. This involves using an electric current to burn the wart off.
- Laser. Works by vaporizing the warts with a laser beam. This
treatment is very precise so it’s good for warts in hard-to-reach places. Skin
area around a wart removed by laser is rarely damaged.Risk Factors in Women vs. Men
Women are at a higher risk than men to get infected with genital HPV. There are no concrete reasons for this, but doctors suspect that women are more susceptible to the virus because they are usually recipients of bodily fluids. If a woman has sex with a man infected with genital HPV, his semen can stay in her body sometimes for hours after the deed. If the semen is infected with HPV, the longer it remains in contact with the woman’s skin, the greater the risk of infection for the woman.
Homosexual men who engage in anal sex also have a higher risk of getting a genital HPV infection than heterosexual men. The reasons for this are the same as the reasons why heterosexual women are at a higher risk of getting genital HPV. When homosexual men participate in anal sex, the semen can stay in the anal cavity for a long time. The longer any HPV infected skin or fluid stays in contact with uninfected skin, the greater the chance of an infection.
This page was last updated:
July 12, 2006It is not the intention of Cervicalcancer.org to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided, and Cervicalcancer.org urges you to consult with a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your personal questions.