Genital warts may go away on their own, but the amount of time this takes can vary. Around 80% of people with the virus that causes the warts will clear the infection within 18–24 months.

Treatment can help with removing the warts faster, but some treatments can cause genital wart scars.

Genital warts are the result of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that occurs as a result of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common STI in the United States.

Not everyone with HPV has genital warts. Those that do can find their warts come and go. While there is no cure for the virus, people can manage the warts with creams or other treatments.

Genital warts can disappear without treatment. Although this will usually happen within 2 years, it can take longer. People can eliminate genital warts much faster with treatment, and treated warts are less likely to return quickly.

For a person using cream, it may take as little as a few months for warts to disappear. However, they may go away more quickly following a surgical procedure.

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HPV causes genital warts that treatment can eliminate.

Genital warts may appear within weeks, months, or years of a person contracting HPV.

An outbreak will present as lumps anywhere around the genitals. In some cases, outbreaks can also appear on the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.

In addition to clearing up genital warts more quickly, treatment can ease associated pain, itching, and irritation. It can also lower the risk of HPV spreading to other people.

Treatments for genital warts include:

Topical creams

A doctor can prescribe a topical cream or recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) variety. It is important to note that OTC remedies for regular warts cannot treat genital warts.

Creams for genital warts include:


This cream comprises green tea extract, and doctors prescribe it to manage external and anal genital warts. A person should apply the product to the affected area three times daily for up to 4 months.

Sinecatechins is highly effective, and most people tolerate it well.

Side effects may include:

  • a burning sensation
  • pain or discomfort in the area
  • itching
  • redness


Imiquimod works to get rid of external genital warts, and doctors have also used it to treat some skin cancers. People can apply the ointment directly to the warts at least three times a week for up to 4 months.

Imiquimod can also help boost a person’s immune system, encouraging it to fight the HPV infection. However, research has only shown it to be effective in slightly more than 50% of people. The researchers noted that females observed a complete disappearance of warts more often than males.

Side effects can include:

  • redness or swelling in the area
  • a burning sensation
  • itching
  • tenderness
  • flaky or scabby skin


This treatment involves the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze off genital warts. The nitrogen causes a blister to form around each wart, and the warts will fall away as the blisters heal.

Cryotherapy is a quick and effective solution, although many people require multiple treatments to maintain the results over time.

The side effects of cryotherapy may include:

  • pain
  • swelling of the area
  • a mild burning sensation


In this procedure, a surgeon burns genital warts with an electric current. They then scrape away the dried tissue, leaving the person free of warts.

A person will usually receive a general anesthetic, and the healing process can take 4–6 weeks.

Experts consider electrodesiccation very effective. Controlled trials have reported that up to 94% of people who received this treatment were wart-free after 6 weeks.

Side effects may include:

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • scarring
  • changes in the color of the skin

Laser surgery

A surgeon also performs this procedure, using laser light to burn away the tissue of the wart.

A person will usually receive either a local or general anesthetic, depending on the number and size of the warts.

A doctor may recommend laser surgery when warts are:

  • difficult to access
  • difficult to treat by other means
  • extensive
  • prominent

Recovery is likely to take about 4 weeks.

The side effects of laser surgery may include:

  • bleeding
  • scarring
  • pain
  • soreness and irritation in the area
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People can reduce their risk of contracting HPV by using barrier methods during sexual activity.

If a person has HPV, it is vital that they tell any sexual partners before engaging in sexual activity.

People with an outbreak of warts can reduce the risk of HPV transmitting to others by abstaining from sex until the warts have been absent for 2 weeks.

However, HPV can still spread from person to person, even if no warts are present.

Using a barrier method, such as a condom or dental dam, will reduce the risk of HPV and other STIs transmitting to others.

While genital warts may eventually disappear without treatment, HPV remains infectious. It is, therefore, advisable to use a barrier method, such as a condom, during sexual activity.

Treatment can eliminate genital warts and help reduce future outbreaks, although it may take several months to be effective. Repeated treatment may be necessary, and warts may still return.