Do Genital Warts Hurt?

If you get soft growths on your genitals, chances are that you have genital warts. This sexually transmitted infection (STI) is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). While many people have HPV, not all have the signs of genital warts. However, because these people have the virus, they are HPV carriers. In most cases, HPV infections disappear without treatment. For cases of genital warts that stick around, medications and other treatment methods are available to manage the infection. 

Do Genital Warts Hurt?

Genital warts usually appear within the moist areas of the body such as the groin, around the vagina and the anus. In most instances, these warts are neither painful nor do they cause discomfort. There are rare cases of itchy and painful warts that may also bleed after scratching.

Genital warts are fleshy growths that range in color from pink to red. The small growths that are sometimes too tiny to see appear within or around the genitals in small clusters. They can spread to larger areas and mimic the appearance of a tiny cauliflower.

Other Symptoms of Genital Warts

Similar to many STIs, HPV will not always present with physical symptoms. But it's possible to experience the following symptoms:

  • Itching
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Burning sensation
  • Bleeding

Genital warts can appear in the following areas:

In Women

  • Within or around the vulva
  • Inside the vagina
  • On the cervix
  • Around the anus

In Men

  • On the shaft or tip of the penis
  • On the scrotum
  • Around the anus

Warts may also grow within the mouth and the throat in cases of oral sex with people infected with HPV. It is always important for infected people to seek medical attention to avoid transmission to their partners.

Do You Need Tests to Diagnose Genital Warts?

If you suspect that you have genital warts, and don’t yet notice "do genital warts hurt", visit your doctor for examination and tests to confirm this or rule out other STIs. Here are the main tests for genital warts:

  • Physical examination of any growths in the genital area
  • Physical examination of the rectum
  • Application of dilute vinegar (acetic acid) to highlight small growths
  • Full pelvic examination, including a pap smear for females
  • Specialized HPV test–similar to pap smear–for high risk persons
  • Cervical tissue biopsy if pap smear indicates the infection. The biopsy helps to determine if there are cell abnormalities that may lead to HPV associated cancer.

For females, the doctor may recommend consultation with a gynecologist for more specialized testing and treatment.

How to Treat Genital Warts

Now you know the answer to the question "do genital warts hurt" is no, you may still need treatments even if you don't notice any symptom. Genital warts are treated in several ways, depending on the specific types and their location. 

1. Topical Treatment

Topical treatments for genital warts include the following:

  • Podophyllotoxin works as a toxin against the warts and is recommended for treatment of small clustered warts. It is usually dispensed in liquid form and applied with an applicator. Treatment with podophyllotoxin is carried out in cycles as your doctor will prescribe. Pregnant women should not use podophyllotoxin.
  • Imiquimod cream is used for treatment of large warts. It works by inciting or stimulating the immune system to destroy the warts. Imiquimod is applied and left on for six to ten hours. The treatment is repeated thrice per week and may take weeks before any noticeable improvement.
  • Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is used in treatment of small and hard warts by destroying proteins within wart cells. Care should be taken when applying TCA to avoid damage to healthy skin.

2. Physical Ablation

Do genital warts hurt? Physical ablation or removal of genital warts can hurt a bit.

  • Excision is the cutting away of the warts and is used in treatment of small and hardened warts, or small warts that may have joined together. It is performed under local anesthesia. The warts are cut away using a surgical scalpel and the wound would be stitched up. Healing takes about three weeks and may leave a scar.
  • Cryotherapy is the freezing of warts using liquified nitrogen. It treats large numbers of small warts such as those that in or around the vulva or on the shaft of the penis. Healing takes about three weeks.
  • Laser surgery is used in the treatment of large genital warts that are difficult to treat by other methods because they're located inside the anus, urethra and vagina. The laser surgeon burns away warts with laser radiation. The procedure is performed under local or general anesthesia.
  • Electrosurgery is usually used in combination with excision in the treatment of large warts around the vulva or the anus, especially those that don’t respond to topical treatments. The procedure is to remove the outer part of the wart by excision before passing a small electric current through a wire looped around the wart. The procedure may be quite painful depending on the number of warts, and may necessitate regional or general anesthesia.

3. Lifestyle Adjustment

  • Avoid sexual intercourse: Following treatment of genital warts, sex abstinence is advisable until you are fully healed to protect your partner from infection and ensure that you heal faster. Because HPV may still be present within the cells of your skin even after treatment, if you engage in sex, use condoms for the first three months.
  • Quit smoking: Doctors and researchers have discovered that treatment for genital warts is more effective in non-smokers than smokers. While the reason for this is still unclear, if you are still smoking, quit as soon as you can. This will help you recover from genital warts, reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and other conditions.
 
 
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