Genital warts are a result of infection by HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), which is a sexually transmitted disease that is highly contagious. Most adults who are sexually active will be affected by a single or multiple strains of HPV at some point in time.
To contract HPV there has to be direct contact between the skin of someone who does not already have the virus and the skin of someone who is already infected. HPV is typically transmitted through genital, oral or anal sexual intercourse. After sexual contact with an infected person, it usually takes anywhere from six weeks to six months before genital warts appear, and in many cases, years can pass before someone who is infected notices anything different.
In women, genital warts are generally seen on the inside and outside of the vagina and anus as well as on the cervix. In men, genital warts generally affect the skin on the scrotum, penis, anus, and groin as well as on the upper thighs.
Not everyone who has HPV develops genital warts, however, the vast majority of genital warts can be traced back to one or two specific strains of HPV. Plantar warts are the most common type of genital warts and are easy to identify.
Although there is no known cure for HPV, there are vaccines available that can help to prevent contracting the virus. The human body also has the ability to heal and eliminate HPV naturally as time passes.
While they are more uncommon, there are certain strains of HPV that can develop into anal or cervical cancer, however, these rare strains are not the ones that are responsible for the development of genital warts.
Genital Warts Symptoms: What Do They Look Like?
Genital warts typically appear as soft and flesh-colored growths of skin that tend to cluster around the anus and genital areas. The exact location of an individual’s genital warts typically depends on their gender. The size and appearance of the warts can vary greatly. They can be big or small and flat or ridge-like, however most genital warts resemble the top of a cauliflower.
The following are common symptoms and identifying characteristics associated with genital warts, which vary depending on the severity of the infection:
- Lumpy and blistered growths on genital skin and mucus membranes that are generally pain-free.
- Individual warts or clusters of warts that vary in size and shape.
- A slight discharge from the affected skin as well as an itchy, prickly sensation where warts are located.
- During urination, genital warts rarely cause discomfort, unless the warts grow in an around the urethra’s opening. In that case, an individual may feel a burning sensation when they urinate.
- Smaller warts can go unnoticed when they are surrounded with hairy skin or when they are inside the body, such as on the cervix in women. If this is the case, a complete examination performed by a medical professional is the best way to identify the warts and to prevent the growths and infection from spreading.
- Previously contracted sexually transmitted diseases can also bring on a case of genital warts.
- Genital warts my spread throughout the body and eventually affect the throat, lips and tongue.
Apart from the more common symptoms associated with genital warts, the following symptoms are rare, but can also be found in individuals suffering with an HPV infection:
- Excessive moisture and dampness in the genital area and on the affected skin.
- Vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse, however, this largely depends on the location of the growths.
- Increased and excessive discharge from the vagina.
- Extremely itchy genital skin (particularly of the vagina, penis and scrotum).
The following are some of the most effective home remedies for treating and removing genital warts caused by the Human Papilloma Virus.
- Tea Tree Oil
The antifungal, antiviral and antiseptic properties of tea tree oil make it an effective home remedy for fighting acne, however it is also an excellent solution for treating and getting rid of genital warts.
During treatment, the skin surrounding the warts is not negatively affected by tea tree oil, because it only acts on the genital warts. However, skin can become irritated by pure tea tree oil, so it should always be diluted with some type of carrier oil before it is used to treat delicate genital or anal skin.
Treatment with tea tree oil is also beneficial because it does not cause as much of a burning sensation as other genital wart home remedies such as apple cider vinegar.
- Combine four to five drops of tea tree oil with a tablespoon of olive or almond oil.
- Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and apply it directly to the genital warts using a bandage to hold it in place.
- Let the tea tree oil soaked cotton ball remain in place for the entire day and remove it before showering.
- Reapply the cotton with tea tree oil to the affected areas until the warts become white and fall off the skin.
For best results repeat this treatment once daily for at least ten consecutive days.
- Mix four or five drops of tea tree oil with a tablespoon of almond or olive oil.
- Use a cotton ball to apply the solution directly onto the genital warts.
- Repeat several times a day until the warts dissolve and disappear completely.
Reduce the itchiness of genital warts and increase the rate that they heal with regular tea tree infused baths.
- Fill a tub with warm water and add five or six drops of tea tree oil and then sit in the water for between fifteen and twenty minutes.
For best results repeat this treatment two or three times each day.
Note: The size of the warts dictates the amount of time this remedy takes to show results, which may be anywhere between a few weeks to several months.
- Duct Tape
While very unusual, many people have found duct tape to be an effective remedy for removing genital warts. In fact, in a study, one out of every five individuals who used duct tape to treat genital warts saw positive results.
- Apply duct tape to the affected skin and let it sit in place for six full days.
- Once the required time has elapsed, remove the tape from the warts and use an emery board to file down any remaining warts (optional).
For best results, repeat this treatment regularly until the warts go away completely.
- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Apple cider vinegar is one of the most effective home remedies for getting rid of genital warts. The acetic acid in ACV helps to dissolve and remove dry, dead and infected skin cells when it is applied directly onto affected areas. The corrosive action of apple cider vinegar kills HPV infected tissues, and with regular treatment causes all existing growths to fall off the skin.
There are several ways to use ACV for treating genital warts:
- Soak a cotton swab in ACV and dab it over the affected skin, saturating it completely.
- Allow the liquid to penetrate the skin for approximately ten minutes before wiping the area dry with a clean cloth.
- Repeat application at regular intervals (every thirty minutes to an hour) throughout the day.
For best results, repeat this treatment at least three times daily for a full three weeks. The warts will begin to change color, scab and fall off within two to seven days of initial treatment.
- Soak a cotton ball in ACV and apply it directly onto the genital warts before using tape or a bandage to hold the cotton in place.
- Let the apple cider vinegar soaked cotton remain on the skin for the entire night.
- The next morning, rinse any residue away completely.
For best results, repeat this treatment daily for between two and three weeks and warts will disappear completely. However, there should be a noticeable difference in the genital warts within hours of the first treatment.
- Apply a cotton ball soaked with apple cider vinegar directly to the affected skin and use a bandage or tape to hold the cotton in place.
- Let the dressing sit on the skin for the entire day or for a minimum of two to three hours before removing it.
- Use clean water to remove any residue from the skin.
For best results, repeat this treatment once daily for at least one or two full weeks.
Warning: A harsh burning or stinging sensation is common upon initial application of apple cider vinegar on genital warts.
- Banana Peel
Bananas contain potassium and enzymes that help to dissolve and eliminate genital warts without using harsh treatments. During treatment the warts will begin to change color and eventually they will fall off the skin.
- Cover genital warts with a piece of a banana peel before going to bed with the inner skin of the peel against the affected skin.
- Use a bandage to hold the banana skin in place and let it stay in that position during the night.
- The next morning remove the bandage and the banana skin.
For best results, repeat this treatment every day for up to two full weeks.
Garlic has potent antiviral properties that make it very effective for treating genital warts and HPV when taken internally and used as a topical remedy. It can be used in its natural and raw state or in capsule form.
- Coat the warts in Vitamin E and crushed raw garlic before covering the affected skin with a gauze bandage.
- Allow the combination to sit on the skin for up to two full days before removing it.
For best results, repeat the treatment regularly until warts go away.
- Peel between eight and ten garlic cloves and grind them into a smooth paste.
- Coat the affected skin with the paste and cover the area with a sterile bandage.
- Let the paste sit on the skin for up to an hour before rinsing it away with water.
For best results, repeat treatment every day until the warts go away.
- Castor Oil
Castor oil, which has been used for centuries as a medical treatment, is an effective remedy for getting rid of genital warts and the Human Papilloma Virus infection because of the powerful healing compounds it contains. Warts become black and fall off after using this treatment in one of several different ways:
- Apply a castor oil soaked cotton ball directly to the warts and secure it with a piece of tape. Reapply a fresh cotton dressing up to three times daily.
- Combine castor oil with baking soda to make a paste and use it to coat the warts before covering the affected skin with a bandage. Reapply the mixture several times daily, taking care not to get it onto clothing.
- Before going to sleep, cover the wart and the skin around it with a layer of castor oil and apply a thin slice of garlic over it (optional) before covering the affected area with a bandage.
- Remove the bandage and garlic the following morning.
For best results use this treatment daily for between two and three weeks.
Note: Add a few drops of peppermint oil or other essential oil to the castor oil before use to make it smell more pleasant, if desired.
Onion contains powerful antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. When the juice of the onion is combined with the antiseptic agents in salt (for faster healing), it makes an effective home remedy for treating and eliminating genital warts.
This Ayurvedic remedy typically cures genital warts completely within a month or two and increases the flow of blood throughout the body.
- Cut two onions into slices, sprinkle one teaspoon of salt over them and allow them to sit overnight in a covered container.
- The following morning, make a paste by mashing the onions and then using a sieve to extract juice from the paste.
- Use the extracted onion juice to coat the affected skin before covering it with a bandage.
For best results, repeat this treatment daily (reapplying throughout the day) until the warts go away.
While it may take up to a full month to see results on larg warts, applying alcohol directly onto the affected skin makes genital warts gradually disappear.
- Nail Paint
Applying nail paint (clear) directly onto warts nightly for up to two weeks is an effective remedy for eliminating them.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is another effective remedy for some genital warts because it helps to eliminate the virus that causes it (papilloma).
- Crush a Vitamin C tablet into powder and mix it with a few drops of water.
- Coat the warts with the paste and cover the area with a bandage.
- Let the mixture sit for an entire day before washing it off.
OTC Products and Topical Treatments
Effective treatments for genital warts include over-the-counter products and topical treatments (chemicals, creams and lotions), which are typically FDA approved and safe to use on the skin. These treatments work best for warts that are soft and moist and may offer better results when combined with other treatments, instead of being used alone.
Topical treatments work slowly, so more time is necessary for full results. During treatment it is best to stop using potential irritants such as scented lotions, bubble baths and soaps.
Frequently used topical and OTC treatments for genital warts include the following:
Veregen and Polyphenon E
Two often recommended and FDA approved topical treatments for genital warts include the green tea extract-based ointments known as Veregen and Polyphenon E.
Podofilox is a gel-based topical treatment that effectively eliminates most genital warts when used over several weeks.
- Podofilox removes anywhere between 45 to 90 percent of genital warts. However, studies show that between 30 and 60 percent of individuals treated with this gel will see warts return.
Commonly used as an acne treatment, salicylic acid can also be used to soften and remove genital warts.
- Two solutions that contain salicylic acid are Occlusal and Compound W.
- While it can take several months to eliminate the warts, salicylic acid is a very safe and effective treatment.
- Before using salicylic acid, use water to soak the affected skin. For best results, apply the acid directly to the warts, cover the area completely and let it sit overnight.
Podophyllotoxin is a wart removal treatment (liquid or cream), that poisons wart cells with toxins, removing small clusters effectively.
- The treatment cream (for more accurate placement) is applied onto the affected skin or a liquid treatment may be applied with a special instrument that drips the exact dosage onto the wart.
- Mild irritation is common with both the cream and liquid form of this treatment.
- Podophyllotoxin treatment is done in two main cycles. First, there are three consecutive days when the medication is applied directly to the warts twice daily. Next, there are four consecutive days of non-treatment. This two-phase cycle is usually repeated four of five times for optimal results.
- It is not safe for pregnant women to use Podophyllotoxin.
Imiquimod is a cream-based treatment that boost the body’s immune system (immune response cream), killing large warts in the process. Imiquimod does not cause as much irritation as podofilox. It is rated as highly effective for long-term results, with between 70 to 80 percent of warts being eliminated with treatment and only 5 to 20 percent of treated individuals seeing warts return.
- After application, allow the cream to sit for between six and ten hours before washing it away.
- After applying the cream, it is normal to experience mild irritation, however if it persists, see a doctor immediately.
- Noticeable improvements in genital warts may take several weeks with this treatment.
- It is not safe for pregnant women to use Imiquimod.
For best results apply this treatment at least three times weekly.
Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)
TCA is effective for removing tattoos, as a chemical peel and for treating small and hard genital warts. It burns and destroys proteins inside the cells of the wart upon contact and eventually the wart falls off.
- TCA is the most common medical grade topical treatment for removing genital warts, however healthy skin is damaged by using it incorrectly.
- A burning sensation that lasts between five to ten minutes and is very intense is a common effect of having a TCA treatment.
- Weekly treatments applied by a medical professional are recommended for eliminating genital warts.
- It is safe for pregnant women to receive TCA treatments.
Warning: Consult with a physician or nurse before using topical treatments as some of them can make cervical caps, diaphragms and latex condoms less effective.
Another treatment option for getting rid of genital warts that do not respond to topical treatments involves using physical ablation methods (heating, freezing or otherwise removing them) to eliminate the affected tissues. These techniques are effective for areas with drier skin and warts that are hard and rough.
- Cryotherapy – This method removes warts by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. The warts fall off after treatment, however, there is a possibility that they will return.
- Surgical Removal – A physician can use a scalpel to cut the affected skin cells and remove the warts. General or local anesthesia is typically used and the procedure is considered to be minor surgery.
- Electrocautery – Burning warts off the skin with electrocautery surgery (electrical current) is a method that is not as common as other treatments, but is highly effective.
- Laser Surgery – When other methods of treating genital warts are not effective, laser surgery may be an option. However this method is not safe to use on all areas of the body.
Note: The location and type of warts present dictates the best treatment method to use to get rid of them. However, if no warts are visible, treatment is not necessary.
Warning: Only have surgical wart removal treatments that are recommended and administered by a medical doctor.