Genital warts: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome

How do dermatologists diagnose genital warts?

People often feel embarrassed by growths in their genital area and do not see a doctor. But seeing a dermatologist can provide peace of mind because you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment.

A dermatologist can diagnose genital warts by examining the warts during an office visit. Sometimes a dermatologist will remove a wart or part of it and send it to a laboratory. This can confirm that a patient has genital warts.

How do dermatologists treat genital warts?

Some genital warts clear without treatment. But removing warts has benefits because treatment:

  • Lowers the risk of spreading the virus.
  • Can relieve any pain and itching.
  • Lets a person know that the growths are genital warts, not cancer.
  • Removes warts that can be hard to keep clean.
If you want to treat your genital warts, it is best to see a dermatologist. You should not use a wart medicine that you can buy without a prescription. These medicines treat other types of warts. Genital warts require different treatments.

There are quite a few treatments for genital warts. Before choosing your treatment, a dermatologist will consider many things, including the number of warts, where the warts are, and your overall health.

Treatment may involve a procedure in the dermatologist’s office or a medicine you put on the warts. The following describes the different treatments for genital warts:

Medicine: Often the dermatologist prescribes medicines that you will apply to the genital warts at home. These prescription medicines include:
  • Podofilox for external warts (to stop the wart cells from growing).
  • Imiquimod (boosts the body’s immune system so it can fight HPV).
  • An ointment made of green tea extract (sinecatechins) for external warts and warts around the anus.
Procedures: A dermatologist may perform one of these procedures during an office visit:
  • Cryosurgery (freeze off the warts with liquid nitrogen).
  • Excision (cut out the warts).
  • Electrocautery (destroy the warts with an electric current).
  • Laser treatment (destroy the warts with laser light).

Sometimes treatment requires more than 1 office visit.

Other treatments: Sometimes medicine is injected into the warts. Interferon, an antiviral medicine, may be injected into genital warts. This treatment is usually used if other treatment fails.

Ask your dermatologist about possible side effects (health problems that can result from the treatment).

Outcome

Treatment can remove the warts you see, but it may not get rid of the virus. If the virus remains, the warts can return. If you still have the virus, you can spread it through sex. Wearing a condom during sex can reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Learn more about genital warts:

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology. Supported in part by:

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