Genital warts are common and difficult to treat. They are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), the same family of viruses that causes warts on hands and feet, and even the proverbial warts on old women’s chins. These different types of warts are caused by different strains of the same virus.
Genital or venereal warts appear as skin colored or brown bumps in the genital area of men and women. They can be small or large and can look bumpy or cauliflower-like.
They are easily spread from person to person by contact with the wart. Some people fight off the virus quickly and the warts go away. However, most people have the virus for months or years and sometimes never clear the virus. Once genital warts have taken hold, they can be difficult to treat.
Most wart treatments rely on destroying the skin where the virus is living. The fastest way to treat them is to freeze them with liquid nitrogen. Freezing the wart destroys the skin and incites your immune system to finish off the job. Other treatments like electrocautery, surgery, tricloracetic acid, and using podophylin all destroy the skin in a controlled manner to eliminate the wart. Usually multiple treatments are needed.
An interesting study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology has added green tea extract to the list of treatments. We know that green tea is a wonderful antioxidant; this current research shows us that it has potent antiviral activity as well.
Researchers from Argentina found that sinecatechins, extracts from green tea, were an effective and well tolerated treatment for external genital and anal warts.
- They randomly assigned 502 adults with genial warts to either a green tea sinecatechins ointment or to an inactive, placebo ointment for up to 16 weeks or until the warts cleared.
- In the sinecatechins groups, warts cleared completely in about 60% of patients compared to about 35% of subjects in the control group. (The 35% cleared the warts because the warts do sometimes go away on their own).
Sinecatechins ointment, sold as Veregen, is approved for the topical treatment of genital warts in adults.
Unfortunately, this research does not mean that either drinking green tea or applying green tea bags to your warts will treat them. It will not. Nor will onion extract, vinegar, vitamin E or any other do-it-yourself therapy.
Because genital warts are common and are embarrassing, there are countless home remedies and internet sites touting cures. Buyer beware. These treatments are unproven; they usually fail to treat the wart, and in some instances can be harmful, causing burns to your skin and scarring.
Not properly treating the wart can also be dangerous. Certain strains of genital warts can develop into penile cancer in men and cervical cancer in women. If you have warts, then it is important that you see a physician for evaluation and for treatment.
Women should also consider getting the genital wart vaccine, Gardasil. This might not completely prevent you from getting genital warts, but it can protect you against the strains of the HPV virus that are known to cause cervical cancer in women.
Post written by Jeffrey Benabio, MD. You might also like:
Photo credit: Kanko