Some people find themselves with growths on different areas of the genitals. These are called genital warts and are caused by the sexually transmitted infection known as Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. It is spread primarily through direct sexual contact and can appear in various locations such as the vagina, labia, clitoris, cervix, urethra, penis, scrotum, groin, and anus. Once you are infected with HPV, it cannot be cured, meaning that it will stay in your body forever. Because there is no way to rid your body of the virus, control through treatment is the only option. One of these treatments is freezing the warts, or cryotherapy.
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Methods to Treat Genital Warts
You may be thinking, “How long do genital warts last?”, click this. While the virus will always be in your body, each individual outbreak of genital warts may last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. There are several ways to get rid of them. Although the method may vary, the goal is the same — to remove or shrink the growths into nothing.
Ways to treat include:
- Excision (cutting): A physician will take a surgical tool such as a scalpel or a sharp loop-style wand, and cut the wart out of the skin. This procedure produces immediate results, but risks include scarring and mild destruction of healthy tissue.
- Topical creams and gels: Creams and gels such as Imiquimod, Podofilox, and Podophyllin Resin are available and are applied either at home or under the supervision of a doctor. They can take anywhere from days to weeks to produce results and are much less likely to leave behind scars than excision.
- Laser therapy: During this procedure, a doctor will use a laser and direct it at the genital warts. The heat from the focused laser destroys the wart tissue, eliminating the growth.
Genital warts are seen almost exclusively in adults. In extremely rare occurrences, it can be seen in children. To learn more about genital warts in children, go here.
Using Cryotherapy as an Option
Many people don’t know that you can freeze off genital warts. Cryotherapy is the usage of cold temperature to kill a growth, such as genital warts. There’s more to it than just simply being cold, though.
- Heat Transfer
Even though cryotherapy involves freezing the wart, it’s actually heat transfer that causes the wart damage. A physician will use liquid nitrogen during the procedure, which has an extremely low boiling point of -196 degrees Celsius. This means that it will boil if it touches anything above that temperature. One the liquid nitrogen touches the wart, your body heat transfers to the liquid, causing the nitrogen to boil off immediately. A steady stream is directed at the wart tissue, sending a continuous freezing temperature to the wart tissue.
- Cell death
When the wart cells are exposed to the extremely low temperature of liquid nitrogen, they freeze, going deeper throughout the wart until the entire growth is quickly frozen. It is during the thawing process that the real damage happens. The liquid inside of each cell forms ice crystals when frozen, causing a great deal of damage to the cell which only gets worse the more the cell thaws out. Cell death is a result of the freezing and thawing.
Inflammation is a natural response to cell death, and helps complete the process until the entirety of the wart is destroyed. A blister forms as a result of this inflammation, holding in the dead cells and viral particles until your body can resorb it all.
Once a blister forms, do not pick or disturb it, as it can spread the HPV particles to the surrounding skin. In most cases, the skin will look normal after the blister is gone, but there may be instances of slight scarring.
When Freezing Genital Warts is a Good Idea
Most often, your doctor will suggest using a topical cream or gel as a first defense. Surgery is usually the most extreme and last option, with cryotherapy being somewhere in the middle. For urethral and cervical warts, freezing them might be more tricky due to their location and very delicate tissue.
However, this type of therapy is a good idea for warts of the:
What Not to Do
Although there are many options available to treat genital warts, most involve a doctor, prescription, and sometimes a procedure.
There are many costs involved in these, such as:
- Physician fees,
- Prescription cost,
- Facility fees.
If you do not have health insurance, treating your genital warts may be much harder due to cost. One thing not to do when you are in this situation is treating yourself with over the counter wart products.
- Wart removers
The kind of removers you find in a regular drugstore are meant for a different type of wart. Genital warts are the product of a specific type of HPV that only appear on the genitals, while the common wart and plantar wart will show up on other areas of the body and are from a separate strain of HPV. There are a few products you can buy that are geared toward the elimination of genital warts, but they are not FDA approved. To learn more about over the counter genital wart remover, click here.
Products such as Compound W and Wartrol use salicylic acid. This substance is harsh on the skin and wart tissue, which makes it a good option for regular areas of the body, but a bad idea for the genitals. The skin around the genitals is much more delicate and sensitive, and using such a harsh product on it can cause damage. Because of the high amount of nerve endings in the genital region, damage to the skin can result in damage to the nerves as well.
- At-home freezing kits
While cryotherapy is a good option for genital warts, it is crucial that a skilled physician be the one to administer the treatment. If the liquid nitrogen touches the skin surrounding the wart, the healthy skin cells will also be destroyed, causing unneeded damage. A doctor can accurately apply the nitrogen to each wart without inflicting damage to areas surrounding it.
There are other things that may help remove your genital warts that do not involve a doctor or medication. Although these are not FDA approved and may take longer to work, many people have success with them.
- Patience: Genital warts will go away over time, so one option for treatment is to simply wait for them to shrink. The average amount of time for the growths to go away ranges from several weeks to a couple months. While waiting, make sure you do not scratch, pick, or rub at the warts, as doing so may cause damage and more discomfort.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Vinegar has been shown to have properties that will kill a wart. Its mild nature lets you use it on the skin of the genitals. To use, apply with a cotton swab three times a day, wiping dry after ten minutes. If warts still persist after a couple of weeks, soak a cotton ball in the apple cider vinegar and secure it to the wart using first aid tape, then leave on for 2-3 hours.
Castor Oil: This oil has specific compounds in it that have been shown to kill warts in some people. Rub a thin layer of castor oil on your warts at night before bed. An optional step is to also leave a thin slice of garlic over the wart as well, taping down and leaving on overnight. Remove in the morning and wash the area. After 1-2 weeks, the wart should turn black and fall off.Information
Good quality essential oils come in an extremely concentrated form. Because of the high amount of plant compounds in them, their effects on the skin can be intense, causing irritation and sometimes even slight burning of the skin. A carrier oil is suggested when using essential oils to prevent any kind of damage to the skin.
- Tea Tree Oil: This essential oil has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties to it. In warts, it works by targeting the HPV virus that is causing the outbreak of genital warts. It is recommended that you dilute tea tree oil before applying, as it can be too harsh in its pure form. Add 4-5 drops to 1 tablespoon of a carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil. Apply to your genital warts three times a day.
- Essential Oils: Along with tea tree and castor, there are other essential oils that can help get rid of genital warts. These include clove, oregano, vitamin E, wormwood, and fish oil. Dilute with a little bit of carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil, then apply to your genital warts three times a day until the warts are clear.
When you have an outbreak of genital warts, there can be discomfort or embarrassment associated with it that can disrupt your daily life. But with all the treatments available, these growths don’t have to be a burden. Effective methods such as cryotherapy will shrink your warts down to nothing in no time, leaving you feeling like normal in no time.