The first outbreak of genital warts can leave you uncomfortable, terrified, and baffled. You might be distressed and angry, but you are not alone. Genital warts are the most common sexually transmitted disease caused by a ubiquitous virus called the Human papillomavirus (HPV).
Warts are flesh-colored or gray outgrowths on the skin of the genital area, presenting itself as either a single bump or in clusters.
According to the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, there are about 500,000 to 1 million new cases of genital warts diagnosed each year in the United States and several undiagnosed cases.
Genital warts can affect both males and females. Sexually active individuals are vulnerable to the infection of genital warts. These warts can be seen on the external genitalia and the pubic area. These can also appear in the space between the thighs, inside the vagina, and in the anal canal.
Causes of Genital Warts
Warts were considered to be a curse of God or black magic by the folks in early days. People indulged in all sorts of bizarre remedies such as prayers and charms to get cured of warts. With the evolution of scientific methods, this myth was busted, and it was established that warts develop as a result of a viral infection.
Genital warts are also known as condylomata acuminata or venereal warts. This contagious infection is attributed to the Human papillomavirus (HPV), which manifests itself in different forms, ranging from benign genital warts to invasive cancer. Although more than 120 strains of HPV have been identified, types 6 and 11 are primarily associated with genital warts.
HPV is transmitted through oral, anal, and vaginal sexual contact. Every sexually active individual is susceptible to HPV infection. It is most common in homosexual men and frequently occurs in bisexual and heterosexual individuals.
It is not necessary that every HPV infected individual will get genital warts. The body’s immune system constantly fights off pathogens to ward off infections. In most cases, the virus can go away without harming your body. However, a weakened immune system can derail the body’s ability to fight off pathogens. This persistent HPV infection can result in genital warts.
Several potential causes have been associated with the prevalence and transmission of genital warts, including the following:
- Unprotected sex with multiple partners can increase the likelihood of an HPV infection that is caused by penetrative sex. An HPV-infected person might not have visible warts but is a carrier of the virus himself and aids in its transmission without having any prior knowledge of it.
- The presence of other sexually transmitted infections or diseases has been associated with genital warts.
- People with a weakened immune system cannot counter any infectious attack, resulting in the appearance of genital warts in such HPV-infected individuals.
- An infected mother can transmit the virus to her baby during childbirth. This is called perinatal transmission.
- HPV can be also be transmitted through skin to skin contact involving open-mouthed kissing and genital touch.
- Fomite transmission is the communication of diseases through objects such as hands and surfaces that might be infected. HPV has also been reported to be transmitted by used sex toys of an HPV-infected individual.
- Lack of proper hygiene can facilitate fomite transmission.
Signs and Symptoms of Genital Warts
Genital warts are characterized by fleshy bumps in and around your genital areas, anus, and buttocks, sometimes involving the mouth and throat as well. If you are noticing growths on your genital skin or anal region, you may have contracted genital warts. Some genital warts may be too small and flat and cannot be seen with the naked eye. They can grow as small flat patches or in clusters in the shape of a cauliflower.
Genital warts on males can appear on the penis, groin, scrotum, and thighs, inside the urethra, and on surrounding areas.
In females, these warts may appear in the vulva, vagina, cervix, and surrounding areas.
In both the sexes, genital warts can show upon the mouth, throat, lips, and anus.
Common symptoms that are indicative of genital warts include:
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Vaginal pain
- Pelvic pain
- Itching in affected areas
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding after intercourse
- Burning sensation in the genital area
- Irregular bleeding
Risk Factors for Genital Warts
Certain factors can give rise to an increased risk of developing genital warts:
- Indulging in unsafe sex with multiple partners at multiple times or a partner who involves in such an activity
- Presence of other sexually transmitted diseases
- HIV-infected individuals upon chance communication of HPV
- Frequent episodes of sexually transmitted diseases
- A weakened immune system, derailing the body’s ability to recuperate from external and internal infections
- Sexual abuse during childhood
When to See a Doctor
Most genital warts go away on their own. In some cases, genital warts last for a long time; they become hardened and cause significant discomfort. Although it is difficult to detect a genital wart, it is recommended you talk to your doctor if you observe any bump that doesn’t disappear for weeks. You should also check for STD-related symptoms such as abnormal discharge from genitals, irregular bleeding, itching, and discomfort in genital areas. You should immediately seek help from a doctor and get a sexual health checkup.
Diagnosing Genital Warts
Genital warts can be diagnosed by a physical examination of the affected genital area. The healthcare professional will ask questions about your health, sexual behavior, and sexual history. This might be a little awkward and uncomfortable, but essential for a proper diagnosis.
Certain strains of HPV are oncogenic and are known to cause cervical cancer. Because genital warts can occur deep inside the female genital parts, a Pap test is conducted to check the presence of HPV in females. This test can help determine any changes in the cervix that can develop into cancerous forms.
Women should also undertake regular pelvic exam and Pap tests to detect any changes that might be taking place inside their cervix.
Treatment for Genital Warts
It is possible to have a genital wart and not be aware of its presence. Most of the times, these warts clear up on their own. Due to the risk of transmission and cancerous growth that it entails, visible genital warts should be treated appropriately. Visible genital warts can be treated by the following methods and procedures:
- Topical treatment: This is the direct application of a chemical agent in the form of a cream, lotion, or liquid on warts until warts wear off. It is a time-consuming process.
- Surgical therapy: This procedure involves excising the wart by using different techniques, namely, cryotherapy, surgical excision, electrocoagulation, and laser treatment. There are chances of recurrence in surgical therapies.
Possible Complications of Genital Warts
Genital warts are a manifestation of the Human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes bumps in the genital area. These patches or outgrowths are contagious and prolonged infection can be associated with adverse effects.
- Prolonged and untreated genital warts are likely to be communicated to your partner/partners.
- It can also be transmitted to a newborn from an infected mother during childbirth causing laryngeal papillomatosis (warts in the mouth) in the newborn.
- Significant genital warts are characteristic of the presence of various HPV strains. Because some HPV strains are oncogenic and can promote cancerous growths, it is recommended to get yourself screened for the presence of any abnormal changes in your genital parts.
Prevention of Genital Warts
Genital warts are the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease affecting millions of people across the globe. The incidence and recurrence of warts cannot be fully determined due to its invisibility and ability to disappear on their own. The symptoms of HPV infection can take months to years to make an appearance. This can keep you perplexed as from where you contracted the disease.
Thus, to ensure you stay on the safe side, certain preventive measures can be taken:
- Abstain from sex of any form, whenever you suspect an infection.
- Use dental dams or condoms for protection to reduce the risk of contracting the disease from your partner. Although condoms are not 100 percent efficient as they do not cover the entire genital area, you can still decrease the chances of an infection.
- Regularly perform a self-examination to monitor your sexual health.
- Vaccination against HPV can protect individuals from most of the HPV strains that cause genital warts. These shots are administered to individuals aged 9–45. It is advised to get vaccinated before you indulge in any sexual activities to prevent from contracting the HPV. Vaccines are also available against cervical cancer-causing HPV strains.
- Be selective when it comes to intimacy in your relationship. Being sexually conservative can help you prevent any future mishaps. Have a heart to heart conversation before indulging in any sexual activity.
- Be open about your sexual health and HPV status with your partner to avoid winding up any infection on each other.
- Ensure that you and your partner are not engaging in multiple sexual relations.
Besides these preventive measures and medical treatment, you can also consider trying some home remedies to help you manage your genital warts.
Natural Treatments for Relief from Genital Warts
Here are 10 home remedies to help heal your genital warts.
1. The Front Runner of Home Remedies, Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a highly effective topical treatment for genital warts. Besides being inexpensive, it is a much sought-after home remedy to treat infections. Apple cider vinegar has a mild quantity of acetic acid that contributes to its corrosive nature. When apple cider vinegar comes in contact with the affected skin, it helps wear down the abnormal growth of the skin tissues, and warts fall off after a few days of topical application.
Apple cider vinegar is a rich blend of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes and has been touted as an immunity booster. Its antimicrobial properties successfully beat the virus out of your system and aid in healing genital warts.
A 2012 study established that in extremely mild or subclinical cases of genital warts, the use of a 3 percent to 5 percent acetic acid solution may be helpful in promoting wart visualization.
- Apply petroleum jelly on the skin surrounding the genital wart to protect the unaffected skin from burns. Mix two parts apple cider vinegar in one part water. Moisten a cotton ball in this solution and apply it to the affected area. Use an adhesive tape to hold the cotton ball in place for two to three hours. Remove the cotton ball and wash the area with warm water. After half an hour, repeat the process. Use this treatment two times daily for a few days to go wart-free.
- You can also add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 1 glass of water and drink this solution daily for its therapeutic benefits on your system.
2. The Garlic Mix
Garlic is known for its antioxidant and antiviral properties, which can help you get out of this unfortunate plight.
A study published in Dermatologica Sinica corroborated that the use of 10 percent garlic extract on genital warts for 2 months was equivalent to the effects of cryotherapy.
- Crush a few garlic cloves into a fine paste. Apply the paste on the affected area. Cover the area with a bandage, and leave it on overnight. Next morning, remove the bandage and wash the area with lukewarm water. Repeat daily until you get rid of genital warts.
- Soak a cotton swab in garlic oil and dab it over the genital wart. Leave it on overnight, and rinse it off with water the next morning. Repeat every night for 2 to 3 weeks.
3. Soothe Your Warts with Some Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a pacifying herbal remedy to soothe your genital warts and provide some relief to the discomfort. Its anti-inflammatory properties can relieve itching.
Aloe vera has been known to stimulate the immune response against viral infections.
- Cut open an aloe vera leaf and extract the gel.
- Dip a cotton ball in the gel and apply it directly on the affected area.
- Secure the cotton ball with tape and leave it on overnight.
- The next morning, remove the cotton ball and wash the gel off with warm water.
- Repeat once daily for 1 month or until your warts are gone.
Also, drinking aloe vera juice daily can boost your immune system and ameliorate its ability to fight infections.
4. Tree Tea Oil for the Discomfort
Tea tree oil is conventionally known for its antimicrobial activity. This is due to the presence of various compounds including terpinen-4-ol. Tea tree oil is beneficial as an alternative topical application to prevent infections.
Its antiseptic and antiviral properties favor a considerable decline in HPV infection.
Repeat either of the following remedies two or three times a day until the wart disappears.
- Mix together 4 or 5 drops of tea tree oil with 1 tablespoon of almond oil or olive oil. Dab the oil mix on genital warts, and leave it on for 1–2 hours. Then, rinse it off with warm water.
- Add a few drops of tea tree oil to warm bath water. Soak yourself in this bath for 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Green Tea Extract to Relieve the Warts
Green tea is a rich source of antioxidants, and its synergistic impacts on the human body are manifold. According to the American Family Physician, green tea extract can effectively cure genital warts.
A 2015 study concluded that a green tea extract called sinecatechins is as effective as a standard topical medication in the treatment of genital warts.
- Put the sinecatechins extract in a bowl.
- Add a drop or two of coconut oil.
- Using a clean finger, spread a very thin layer on the genital wart.
- This treatment should not be washed off.
- Do this three to four times a day.
6. Witch Hazel Water for Sensitive Skin
Witch hazel is another popular remedy for genital warts. Being mild in nature, it can be used by people with skin sensitivity. Witch hazel flowers contain tannins, which contribute to its healing properties. It inhibits the growth of genital warts by drying them off.
- Soak a cotton ball in distilled witch hazel.
- Apply it on the warts and leave it on for about 15 minutes before washing it off.
- Repeat this twice a day until the warts clear up.
7. Say Yes to Castor Oil
Castor oil has been used to treat many skin problems, including genital warts. Although not medically proven, but the odorless and tasteless castor oil has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. This activity is attributed to its bioactive component ricinoleic acid, which can aid in healing genital warts.
- Soak a cotton ball in pure castor oil. Put the cotton ball over the wart and secure it with tape. Leave it overnight. The next morning, remove the cotton ball and clean the area with warm water. Gently exfoliate the area with a washcloth or loofah sponge to remove the dead skin cells. Repeat this remedy daily until the wart becomes dark and eventually falls off.
- To 1 tablespoon of castor oil, add 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Mix them to form a thick paste. Apply the paste on the wart and secure it with a bandage. Leave it on overnight. The next morning, remove it and rinse the area with water. Repeat once daily for a few weeks.
8. Onion Juice Burns and Heals
Onion is a potent antimicrobial agent that helps to reduce the spread of the HPV strains that cause genital warts. Also, it promotes proper circulation of the blood. For best results, use a mixture of onion juice and salt as a topical application to treat the genital warts.
- Cut two onions into slices and sprinkle one teaspoon of salt over them.
- Cover and let it sit overnight.
- The next morning, put the onions in a sieve and press with a spoon to extract the juice.
- Apply this juice to the genital warts.
- Leave it on for one hour, and then rinse it off with warm water and pat the area dry.
- Repeat this two to three times daily until you get rid of the warts.
9. Banana Peel to Pacify Your Warts
Banana peel contains antioxidants and enzymes that can effectively dissolve the warts. Eating bananas helps boost the immune system to fight off the virus that causes genital warts. Alternatively, you can also use banana peel to heal flat and common genital warts.
- Cut a piece of banana peel similar to the size of your wart.
- Place the inside of the peel against the wart.
- Secure it with tape or a bandage.
- Leave it on overnight.
- Remove the peel the next morning.
- Repeat this daily for a few weeks or until you get rid of the warts.
10. Dietary Changes to Boost Your Immune Health
A robust immune system is the body’s defense force against infectious agents. Genital warts are an outcome of an infection by some HPV strains as a result of a weakened immune system. You can bolster your immune health by supplementing your diet with abundant quantities of food that will upgrade your immunity levels.
- Eat vegetables that contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C) such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower to help clear up genital warts.
- Include folate, B12 supplements, and reishi mushrooms in your diet to strengthen your immune system to help your body kick out the HPV infection.
- Eat antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, squash, and bell peppers.
- Include probiotic supplements to maintain the pH of your vagina.
- Consume grapefruit seed extract, which is known for its antimicrobial properties.
- Avoid processed foods and fat-rich foods.
- Avoid food allergens such as soy, milk, and peanuts.
- Avoid smoking and follow a healthy regimen.
- Don’t scratch the affected area.
- Regularly change your undergarments and wash them to keep clean.
- Keep your genitals dry. After taking a shower, thoroughly dry your genitals with a towel.
- Do not share your undergarments or towels.
- Consider wearing cotton undergarments. Avoid using tight synthetic undergarments that can chafe your intimate areas and aggravate the condition.
- Maintain proper hygiene.
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