Your healthcare provider usually diagnoses genital warts by seeing them. If you are a woman with genital warts, you also should be examined for possible HPV infection of the cervix.
Your healthcare provider may be able to identify some otherwise invisible warts in your genital tissue by applying vinegar (acetic acid) to areas of your body that might be infected. This solution causes infected areas to whiten, which makes them more visible. In some cases, a healthcare provider will take a small piece of tissue from the cervix and examine it under the microscope.
If you have an abnormal Pap smear result, it may indicate the presence of cervical HPV infection. A laboratory worker will examine cells scraped from your cervix under a microscope to see if they are cancerous.
While HPV (the virus that causes genital warts) has no known cure (see Cure for Genital Warts), treatments are available. These include prescription medications and certain medical procedures. Your healthcare provider will consider your wishes and the size, location, and number of warts before recommending treatment.
Even without treatment, however, they often disappear on their own. There is no way to predict whether the warts will grow or disappear.
There are no over-the-counter treatments for genital warts. If you decide to have them removed, do not use over-the counter medicines meant for other kinds of warts.
Reichman, Richard. Human Papillomavirus Infections. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 13th Edition. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1994.
Koutsky LA, Ault KA, Wheeler CM, et al. A controlled trial of a human papillomavirus type 16 vaccine. New England Journal of Medicine 2002; 347(21):1645-1651.
Winer RL, Lee SK, Hughes JP, Adam DE, Kiviat NB, Koutsky LA. Genital human papillomavirus: Infection incidence and risk factors in a cohort of female university students. Am J Epidemiol. 2003;157:218-226.
Beutner KR, Ferenczy A. Therapeutic approaches to genital warts. Am J Med 1997;102:28-37.
eMedTV serves only as an informational resource. This site does not dispense medical advice or advice of any kind.
Site users seeking medical advice about their specific situation should consult with their own physician. Click