It's a situation that nobody wants to find themselves in, but if you ever contract genital warts, it's vital to get them seen to and treated as soon as possible. This is not just so that you no longer have the condition yourself, but also to eliminate the chance that you will pass them on to someone else. Treating genital warts is not only the healthy, sensible thing to do; it is also the responsible one.
Before embarking on treatment, it is important to know that it could take a matter of months to get rid of them. During this time, it is advised that you do not engage in sexual intercourse, remembering that it is not just penetrative sex alone which could pass them on.
Besides, the skin friction of having sex while warts are present could render the skin around the genital area inflamed and sore, which would be far less comfortable in the long run!
Two types of treatment
Patients will either be prescribed a topical treatment - such as a cream or lotion - which will be applied to the wart to get rid of it that way or alternatively, a doctor may decide that physical ablation is the best course of action. This latter option is where the actual wart itself is forcibly removed by an external factor, such as lasers, electricity or a scalpel.
Medical professionals may decide that both types of treatment are necessary - although it tends to be that tougher cases where the warts are harder and more callous are treated with physical ablation.
Podophyllotoxin may be prescribed for a small cluster of warts. It is dripped onto the area out of a special pipette and may cause some mild irritation when applied. Imiquimod is a cream usually used to treat larger ones. Once it is applied, it encourages the immune system to attack the area, before you wash the cream off a few hours laters. Trichloroacetic acid may be required to treat smaller, more callous ones. However, you may need to go to your local GUM clinic to have it applied by a professional, as it may damage healthy skin tissue - meaning it's not a good idea to DIY! This latter topical treatment is likely to be recommended should you be pregnant, as it is supposedly the 'safest' for expectant mothers.
Patients are of course urged to discuss any possible side effects with their physician before embarking on any course of treatment.
Ablation will usually take the form of one of the four following methods: cryotherapy, excision, electrosurgery or laser surgery.
Cryotherapy is the technique many people may have heard of in conjunction with the treatment of any kind of wart, genital or otherwise - namely, its freezing using liquid nitrogen to kill the cells. Excision is, as the name would suggest, when the wart tissue is cut away using a surgical scalpel (and an anaesthetic of course!). The incision is sealed using stitches; however, this is what renders this method unsuitable for more extensive cases, due to potential scarring. Electrosurgery is where electric current is used to burn away the wart -often in conjunction with excision - while laser surgery will see a laser used to burn away the infected tissue.