Genital warts are treated either with creams, lotions or chemicals or by physical ablation, which is when the warts are destroyed with minor surgery.
Podophyllotoxin (or Podophyllin) is a liquid used to treat smaller warts. It is administered in cycles that can take a few weeks to complete and should be avoided if pregnant.
Imiquimod is a cream usually used for larger warts. It can weaken latex condoms so abstain from sex during treatment. Again, avoid if pregnant.
Trichloroacetic acid is good for small hard warts and is safe to use during pregnancy.
Minor surgical treatments
Cryotherapy - liquid nitrogen is used to freeze off the wart. This process is best for a collection of small warts on the penis shaft or outside the vagina. Skin takes 1-3 weeks to heal.
Excision - the warts are cut away with a scalpel under local anaesthetic. Good for clusters of small, hard warts, which have grown together to form a ‘cauliflower’ shape. Skin takes 1-3 weeks to heal.
Laser Surgery - a laser is used to burn off the wart. Suitable for warts that are difficult to access, such as those found deep in the anus or urethra (the tube from which you pee). Depending on the severity, this is done under local or general anaesthetic and skin takes 2-4 weeks to heal.
Electrosurgery - the outer part of the wart is cut off and then an electric current is passed through the rest of the wart to cut it off. This specialist treatment is usually used when creams haven’t worked. It requires regional anaesthetic (similar to an epidural) or a general anaesthetic. Skin takes 1-3 weeks to heal.
Treatments for genital warts tend to be more effective in people who do not smoke.
If you suspect you have genital warts, contact your GP or sexual health clinic, or, if you prefer to test yourself discreetly in private, order your home self-collection test from our online shop and follow the enclosed instructions.
Avoid all sexual activity
Avoid all sexual activity until you have completed your treatment for genital warts and have been told that you are clear.
Contact your previous partners
Try and contact previous sexual partners as they may be infected with genital warts even if they have no symptoms.
Get treatment for genital warts
Topical treatments or minor surgery can eliminate genital warts quickly and easily so don’t delay.
What to expect after treatment
Different treatments have different healing times but you should avoid sex until the warts have gone. It is recommended that you use a condom for three months after they’ve cleared in case traces of HPV are left on your skin. Warts can re-appear.
Can you cure genital warts?
While there is no cure for HPV, genital warts can be treated effectively and in many cases they’ll never return.