What Are Anal Warts?
Anal warts (also called “condyloma acuminata”) are a relatively common and bothersome condition that affects the area around the anus. They may also affect the skin of the genital area. They first appear as tiny blemishes, perhaps as small as the head of a pin, and may grow more substantial than the size of a pea. Usually, they do not cause pain or discomfort unless they become irritated or large. As a result, patients may be unaware that the warts are present.
Where Do These Warts Come From?
They are thought to be caused by the human papillomavirus, which is relatively contagious. The virus can be transmitted from person to person, almost always by direct contact and sexual activity.
Do These Warts Always Need to Be Removed?
Yes. If not removed, warts generally grow larger and become more numerous. In addition, there is evidence that these warts can become cancerous if left untreated for a long time.
What Treatments are Available?
If warts are tiny and are located only on the skin around the anus, they can be treated with medications, which are applied directly to the surface of warts. This method, while relatively simple in concept, must be carried out with great care and precision by a physician to prevent injury to the healthy skin surrounding warts. This method usually requires several applications performed at various intervals over several weeks.
Another form of treatment involves more rapid destruction of warts using laser or infrared coagulation therapy which we perform right in the office – usually on the very first visit. This is our preferred approach to treat anal warts.
Sometimes warts cannot be treated in the office and require surgery. This depends on the number, size, and exact location of warts being treated.
Warts inside the anal canal usually are not suitable for treatment by medications, and in most cases, need to be treated by laser, cauterization, or surgical removal.
Must I Be Hospitalized for Treatment?
No. Even if you require surgical removal, the excision technique can usually be performed on an outpatient basis, and you can go home after the procedure.
How Much Time Will I Lose From Work After Treatment?
This depends on each situation and the extensiveness of warts removed. If we treat them in the office, then most people are able to right back the same day or the next day. If surgery is required depending on the extent of the disease, some people return to work the next day, while others may remain out of work for several days.
Embarrassment, fear of extreme pain, and other reasons often results in delays when seeking care for anal warts. We are here to help you in a private and professional environment so you can feel comfortable.
Will a Single Treatment Cure the Problem?
Not in most cases, unfortunately. Even with the cautery and surgical treatments that immediately destroy existing warts, many patients develop new warts after treatment. This occurs because viruses that cause the blemishes can live concealed in tissues that appear normal for up to six months or longer before another wart develops. New warts will often emerge from the virus that was already present in the tissue, but these are not recurrences of warts previously treated.
As new warts develop, they usually can be treated in the physician’s office, using either a chemical solution or the electrical cautery procedure. These treatments are performed every few weeks initially, then less frequently as new warts become smaller and less numerous.
Sometimes new warts develop so rapidly that office treatment would be quite uncomfortable. In these situations, a second and occasionally third outpatient surgical visit may be recommended.
How Long is Treatment Usually Continued?
Follow-up visits are necessary for some months after the last wart is observed to be sure that no more warts occur from viruses living in the cells of the skin.
What can be done to avoid getting these warts again?
In some cases, warts may repeatedly recur after successful removal, since the virus that causes warts often persists in a dormant state in body tissues. Following are tips to avoid recurrence and reinfection:
Continue observation for several months after the last wart has been spotted to improve the chances that both warts and the underlying virus that causes them have been eliminated.
Abstain from sexual contact with individuals who have anal (or genital) warts. Since many individuals may be unaware that they suffer from this condition, sexual abstinence or limiting sexual contact to marriage relationships will reduce your potential exposure to the contagious virus that causes these warts. As a precaution, sexual partners ought to be checked, even if they have no symptoms.