Genital warts are growths that occur on the genitals and anus. They may appear skin colored, pinkish, tan, or brown and are often raised and soft. In the medical field, we often refer to them as condyloma or condyloma acuminata. These condyloma (although colloquially referred to as genital warts), can occur on other areas as well (e.g. around the mouth/lips, inside the mouth, throat, etc.)
What causes genital warts? Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV types 6 and 11 cause the vast majority of genital warts.
How do you get genital warts? Genital warts are considered a sexually transmitted disease. The virus is spread through close contact with an infected individual.
If you have genital warts, can you spread them to someone else? Yes, as above, the virus is spread via skin to skin contact. Thus, you can continue to spread it to sexual partners. Although barrier protection is not perfect, it can decrease the likelihood of transmission.
If you have genital warts, does that mean you will have cancer? Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about HPV and cancer. The media reported that Michael Douglas said his throat cancer was caused by the HPV virus. There’s some controversy over what was said exactly, but recall that he talked about how oral sex could lead to transmission of HPV virus.
Anyways, just because you have genital warts does NOT mean you will get cancer. HPV 6 and 11 which we said is linked to the majority of genital warts is less linked to cancer.
How do you treat genital warts? There are several types of different treatments. Cryotherapy involves freezing the wart, often with liquid nitrogen. The lesions may also be burned or treated with a laser. Sometimes they may be cut off with a scalpel or scissors and other times they may be treated with a liquid or cream. Injections have also been used for genital warts. Find a physician who has experience treating genital warts.
For those of you who may have seen your physician for warts, barnacle growths (seborrheic keratoses), actinic keratoses (pre-cancers caused by sun) or even some skin cancers, you may have experienced cryotherapy. Cryo refers to cold, and cryotherapy is a method by which cells are destroyed by extreme cold temperatures down to -196 degrees celsius!
Most commonly, physicians use liquid nitrogen which is then sprayed through the canister in the photo above and turns into a gas outside of the canister. This stream is directed at the target to be destroyed!
Cryotherapy stings (at least in my patients’ and my experience). Afterwards, your skin might be red and you might get a blister or some crusting. This should heal up but if you have concerns after treatment, let your physician know.
So now you know a little more about that scary looking can that your physician may have sprayed you with!
Salicylic acid plaster (e.g. Mediplast), is one of the few treatments that has been shown to be helpful for treating foot warts.
How do you use salicylic acid plaster?
– Soak your feet in warm water and then dry your feet.
– Use a pumice stone to gently remove the dead rough skin from the top of the wart. No need to be very aggressive here. You don’t want to hurt yourself! Oh, and don’t use this pumice stone elsewhere (you don’t want to spread the virus to other areas of your skin).
– If using the Mediplast salicylic acid plaster, cut the plaster so it fits over your wart and then put this over the wart and leave for 48-72 hours before removing.
– Repeat until wart is resolved.
Now, this treatment may not be for everyone, so run it past your doc. If your skin gets irritated or your wart still remains after a few months, let your doctor know.