There are many ways to treat genital warts: some involve using a medicine and some involve a procedure. Even with treatment, it is possible that the warts will come back within a few weeks or months. This is because treating the warts does not necessarily get rid of the virus (HPV) causing the warts. Some cells in the normal-appearing genital skin and vagina may remain infected with HPV. There is currently no treatment that will permanently get rid of HPV in all infected cells. However, most people will clear the virus and the warts with their own immune systems within two years.
Out of all the following options, the best treatment will be decided based on how many warts you have, where they are located, and of course your doctor will take your preferences into consideration. On the other hand, warts do not necessarily need to be treated, especially if they are not bothersome.
1. Medical treatments:
Creams or liquids that dissolve the growth. You or your doctor must apply the recommended one to the wart one or more times per week for several weeks, until the wart(s) goes away.
2. Surgical treatments:
- Freezing: liquid nitrogen is used, which will form a blister and allow the lump to fall off with healing.
Electric current, to burn off the wart
Laser, burns the blemish
Excision, simply cutting if off (under local anaesthesia)
These methods are often used in combination. Some surgical treatments can be done in the office while others are done in the operating room. Also, surgical treatments are considered safe in pregnancy, and may be recommended for:
Warts that do not respond to medical therapy
Large areas of warts, where medical therapy alone is often inadequate
Warts involving the vagina, urethra, or anus
Areas that have pre-cancerous changes in addition to warts
Treating the warts may not decrease the chance of spreading the virus because getting rid of them does not necessarily mean that the virus causing the warts (HPV) is gone. If warts come back, they usually do so within three to six months of treatment. Such a scenario is more common in women with a weakened immune system (such as diabetes, HIV, or certain medications like steroids).
There are certain vaccines which may have a role in preventing genital warts and cervical cancer. You may wish to ask your doctor about them.