Genital warts treatments include topical medications, such as creams and ointments, and surgical procedures, including freezing, excision, and laser removal. There is no cure for human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes genital warts, so they may return after treatment.

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

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

Causes

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.

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

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

Symptoms

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 vary rare
  • itching, burning, or discomfort where the warts appear

Diagnosis and testing

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

Doctors can generally diagnose genital warts by performing a physical examination, including examination of the genital and rectal areas.

Some people may feel uncomfortable visiting a healthcare professional for the diagnosis of genital warts.

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

Some genital warts 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.

Also, research suggests a person should not treat subclinical, or invisible, warts.

However, individuals should seek treatment for their genital warts if the warts are growing, spreading, or causing pain or discomfort.

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

Before discussing treatment options with the doctor, a person should tell them about any other health conditions, as well as 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 podophyllotoxin solution in a gel or cream
  • immune system enhancers in a topical cream, such as imiquimod
  • ointment of catechins extracted from green tea that 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, and therefore 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. This type of treatment is more effective for larger warts or warts that have keratinized, and may 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

Some of these treatments may cause scarring.

For most of these procedures, doctors use some level of local anesthesia. However, surgical removal of 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 avoid applying essential oils or natural remedies to genital warts without consulting a healthcare professional first.

Treatments for genital warts differ from treatments for other warts. A person should not use on their genitals a wart remover intended for other warts.

Learn more about home remedies for genital warts here.

Below are some of the frequently asked questions about genital warts and their treatments.

Are genital warts curable?

Genital warts are treatable, but 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 get genital warts. Also, 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.

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

While there is no cure for HPV, there are treatments available for genital warts that may shorten the duration of their appearance and lessen 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.