Genital Warts

 What are are genital warts?

*Genital warts, also known as condyloma acuminata, are the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
*The CDC estimates that approximately 79 million Americans, mostly in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with Human papillomavirus (HPV)-the virus that causes genital warts.
*The prevalence rate of HPV in US adults is approximately 20%; however, most people are asymptomatic and have no visible signs of genital warts.1
*Evidence suggests that at least 50-75 % of sexually active adults have been infected with at least one genital HPV-type at some time in his/her life.1,2

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can HPV cause cancer?

HPV can cause cervical cancer in women, and rarely, it can lead to cancer of the penis in men. HPV may also produce cancer in other sites of the body including the anal region. Often, the risk is determined by the strain/subtype of the virus ( more than 120 different strains have been identified). These subtypes are divided into 3 categories based on their likelihood of inducing dyplasia/cancer:

HPV types 6 and 11 are considered to be low risk for causing cancer and are the most common cause of genital warts.

HPV types 31, 33, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, and 59 are intermediate risk for cancer.

HPV types 16 and 18 are considered to be high risk and are strongly associated with cervical dysplasia and anogenital cancers.

Patients who have genital warts can be infected simultaneously with multiple HPV types.


Local Destructive Therapies

(Performed in a doctor’s office) Local destructive therapies involve the physical removal of warts through a variety of techniques such as freezing, burning, and chemical application. Success rates and complications vary depending on the method chosen. Patient preference should always be taken into account before choosing how to proceed.

Patient Applied Topical Treatments

Several prescriptions are available for patients to apply at home. All topically applied medications produce redness and irritation which are necessary to produce clearance of warts. Imiquimod triggers an immune response against HPV. In doing so, crusting and redness often develop at the site of application. Other topical medications, such as Podophyllotoxin, inhibit viral replication, also with subsequent irritation. Many patients can tolerate these local side effects whereas others cannot.


Immunotherapy uses a person’s own immune system to fight the human papilloma virus (HPV). Vaccination against HPV (during the young teenage years) prior to sexual exposure is the ideal way to prevent HPV and genital warts. Once HPV is acquired, immunity is often difficult to achieve. Methods to induce immunity Involve the injection of an allergen directly into the wart, or possibly with a topically applied contact sensitizing agent.

1. Update on the treatment of genital warts. Scheinfeld N. Dermatol Online J. 2013 Jun 15;19(6):18559. Review
2. Genital Warts A Comprehensive Review; Yanofsky V et. al. (J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012;5(6):25-36.)
3. Dermatology. Bolgnia et al, 2nd addition. Mosby publishing.
4. Natural history of cervicovaginal papillomavirus infection in young women. Ho GY, et al.. N Engl J Med. 1998;338(7):
5. Ingenol mebutate gel is effective against anogenital warts – a case series in 17 patients. Schopf RE. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016 Jun;30
6. Oral zinc sulfate treatment for viral warts: an open-label study. Mun JH, Kim SH, Jung DS, Ko HC, Kim BS, Kwon KS, Kim MB. J Dermatol. 2011 Jun;38(6):541-5.7. Immunization action coalition (


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