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Treatment of HPV and Genital Warts

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Updated November 28, 2003

Treatment of HPV and Genital Warts

Depending on factors such as their size and location, genital warts are treated in several ways. Although treatments can eliminate the warts, none eradicate the virus and warts often reappear after treatment. Patients should consult their doctors to determine the best treatment for them.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved imiquimod cream, which the patient can apply to the affected area, to treat genital warts. Other treatments include a 20 percent podophyllin solution, which the patient can apply to the affected area and later wash off, and a 0.5 percent podofilox solution, which also is applied to the affected area, but is not washed off. Pregnant women should not use podophyllin or podofilox because they are absorbed by the skin and may cause birth defects in babies. The doctor may also prescribe 5 percent 5-fluorouracil cream, which also should not be used during pregnancy, or trichloroacetic acid (TCA).

Small warts can be removed by cryosurgery (freezing), electrocautery (burning), or laser treatment. Occasionally, surgery is needed to remove large warts that have not responded to other treatment.

Some doctors use the antiviral drug alpha interferon, which they inject directly into the warts, to treat warts that have recurred after removal by traditional means. The drug is expensive, however, and does not reduce the rate of recurrence.

Reprinted from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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