Genital warts treatments include topical medications, such as creams and ointments, and surgical procedures, including freezing, excision, and laser removal. Genital warts occur due to the human papillomavirus (HPV), for which there is no cure, so these warts may return after treatment.

Genital warts, also called condylomata acuminata, are warts that appear as small bumps on or near the genitals or anus.

This article discusses treatments for genital warts, including medications, surgical procedures, and home remedies.

About 400,000 people in the United States get genital warts each year. HPV types 6 and 11 cause 90% of all cases of genital warts.

Around 30% of genital warts will go away by themselves within 4 months of appearing, and around 90% of HPV infections will resolve themselves within 2 years of infection. However, this virus can have a latency period, meaning symptoms may appear or reoccur months or years after the initial infection.

A person may contract HPV and develop genital warts from skin-to-skin contact during genital or anal sex. In rare cases, individuals may develop warts from giving or receiving oral sex with a partner with genital warts on their mouth or genital area.

Sometimes, people can pass genital warts to a newborn during vaginal delivery.

If a person has genital warts, they may notice the following:

  • flesh-colored warts that range in size from large to very small
  • warts that appear in or on the vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, scrotum, anus, or groin
  • warts on the lips, mouth, tongue, or throat, although these are very rare
  • itching, burning, or discomfort where the warts appear

If a person suspects they may have genital warts, they should contact a healthcare professional.

Doctors can generally diagnose genital warts with a physical examination, which involves looking at the genital and rectal areas.

However, some people may feel uncomfortable visiting a healthcare professional to diagnose genital warts.

Although at-home tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are available, they do not specifically look for the types of HPV that can cause genital warts. Therefore, a person should seek guidance from a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Some genital wart outbreaks clear on their own, without treatment. If a person has genital warts that are not causing discomfort, they may not need to seek medical attention.

Additionally, research recommends against seeking treatment for subclinical, or invisible, warts.

However, people should get treatment if their genital warts are growing, spreading, or causing pain or discomfort.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends a person contact a doctor to confirm genital warts and relieve uncomfortable symptoms.

Before discussing treatment options with a healthcare professional, they should tell them about any other health conditions and if they are pregnant or nursing.

Topical treatments for genital warts may be very effective. This type of treatment includes:

  • medications that prevent cell division, such as a podophyllotoxin solution in a gel or cream
  • immune system enhancers in a topical cream, such as imiquimod
  • an ointment of catechins, which come from green tea and can help reduce HPV genes
  • trichloroacetic acid to dissolve warts by dissolving the protein in them

A doctor will decide whether to prescribe any of these treatments to a person, as they are not suitable for everyone. While they are generally safe, they may have some side effects, including:

Moreover, some of these treatments may cause damage to the skin around the warts, so a healthcare professional may need to apply certain treatments in a clinical setting.

The duration and frequency of the treatment with topical medication for genital warts will vary depending on the medication. However, most cases of genital warts will respond to treatment within 3 months.

Doctors may sometimes recommend procedures to remove warts. These types of treatment are more effective for larger warts or warts that have keratinized. They can include:

  • freezing warts off with liquid nitrogen using cryosurgery
  • cutting warts out
  • destroying warts with an electric current in a procedure called electrocautery
  • laser treatment

However, some of these treatments may cause scarring.

Doctors use some level of local anesthesia for most of these procedures. However, surgically removing more extensive lesions may require general anesthesia.

According to the AAD, if other treatments for genital warts prove ineffective, a doctor will sometimes recommend injecting the antiviral medication interferon directly into the warts.

A person should consult a doctor before using any home remedy for genital warts. Using home remedies on sensitive areas of the skin, such as the genitals, may cause adverse reactions or complications.

People should also avoid applying essential oils or natural remedies to genital warts without consulting a healthcare professional first.

Additionally, treatments for genital warts differ from treatments for other warts, so a person should avoid applying general wart removers on their genital warts.

Learn more about home remedies for genital warts.

People can reduce the chances of transmitting or contracting genital warts by:

  • not sharing sex toys
  • thoroughly cleaning sex toys and covering the toy with a condom if a person is sharing them
  • not having sex while receiving treatment for genital warts
  • using a condom or other barrier contraception that covers the warts while having sex

Individuals should also remember that barrier contraception will not prevent genital warts if the virus is present on uncovered skin.

Below are some common questions about genital warts and their treatments.

Are genital warts curable?

While genital warts are treatable, there is no cure for HPV, the virus that causes them.

According to the AAD, if HPV remains in a person’s system, they may develop genital warts. Additionally, these warts may reoccur after an individual has had them removed.

Do genital warts go away on their own?

Sometimes, genital warts clear up on their own. Around 80% of people with HPV will no longer have the infection within 18–24 months.

How long do genital warts last?

Genital warts can occur as long as a person has the strains of HPV that cause them. While most cases do resolve in 2 years, some may last longer.

Treatment may clear warts sooner. However, a person can still spread genital warts or have a recurrence of genital warts as long as they have HPV.

Learn more about how long genital warts last here.

Are genital warts contagious for life?

HPV, the virus that causes genital warts, often goes away by itself within 2 years.

Genital warts may go away by themselves, remain the same size, or become bigger. Some people may require treatment to remove these warts.

Most cases of genital warts develop due to an STI known as HPV. A person may develop genital warts or transmit HPV to another individual as long as the virus remains in their body.

While there is no cure for HPV, treatments for genital warts may shorten the duration of their appearance and ease their symptoms. Treatments include topical prescriptions, surgical removal, and letting warts resolve naturally.

If a person thinks they may have genital warts, they should seek guidance from a healthcare professional.