You will only be offered treatment if you have visible warts. The treatment will depend on what the warts look like, how many you have and where they are. The treatment is to remove visible warts, and most people choose to have the treatment as they do not like the sight of the warts and the treatment is likely to make the warts go away more quickly.
How effective the treatment is varies and depends on the size and type of warts, the treatment that is used and how good your immune system is at fighting the virus.
As genital warts are caused by a virus and not bacteria, antibiotics will not get rid of warts.
Visible warts can be removed by:
- Using a cream or a liquid on the warts (for a few days each week), this is usually done by yourself at home. Some people ask a partner to apply the cream or liquid for them if they find it difficult to see the warts. You may have to apply this treatment for a number of weeks before the warts disappear.
- Freezing (cryotherapy) – this treatment is done by a nurse at the sexual health clinic spraying a liquid gas onto the warts to destroy the virus. You may have to attend weekly to fortnightly for follow up treatment.
- Saline bathing (mild salt solution) can help to heal the warts following treatment with cryotherapy.
Some creams can weaken latex condoms, diaphragms and caps. Polyurethane types can be safely used. The doctor or nurse will be able to give advice if needed.
These treatments may be uncomfortable, but they are not usually painful. Treatments can cause irritation and soreness for a couple of days, so the doctor may recommend you use some pain relieving drugs, (paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin).
Avoid perfumed soap, bath oils, bubble baths, creams and lotions until treatment is completed as these may irritate the skin.
Tell the doctor or nurse if you are pregnant, or think you might be, as this may affect the type of treatment you are given.
Wart treatments sold at the pharmacy (chemist) are not suitable for genital warts.
In very rare cases the warts need to be treated at a hospital and the sexual health clinic can refer you for this treatment which can be;
- Heat (electrocautery), using local anaesthetic.
- Surgery, using local anaesthetic.
If left untreated genital warts may disappear, stay the same, or grow larger in size or number. Over time most warts will eventually go away without treatment. For some people this may take a long time (years) particularly if you have an illness that affects the way your immune system works, making it difficult to fight off infection. It is not usually harmful to your health if the warts are not treated, but you may find them uncomfortable and may not like the way they look.
Treating the warts may reduce the risk of you passing them on to someone else.