What are anal warts?
Anal warts (also called “condyloma acuminata”) are a condition that affects the area around and inside the anus. They may also affect the skin of the genital area. They first appear as tiny spots or growths, perhaps as small as the head of a pin, and may grow quite large and cover the entire anal area. Usually, they do not cause pain or discomfort to afflicted individuals and patients may be unaware that the warts are present. Some patients will experience symptoms, such as itching, bleeding, mucus discharge and/or a feeling of a lump or mass in the anal area.
What causes anal warts?
They are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is transmitted from person to person by direct contact. HPV is considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). You do not have to have anal intercourse to develop anal warts.
There are a numerous types of HPV viruses. Some types may lead to cancer of the cervix and the anus. The types of HPV that cause warts are the low- risk types and do not cause cancer. However, a person may be infected with more than one type of HPV virus. Hence, screening for cancer should be carried out in a patient with anal warts.
Do anal warts always need to be removed?
Yes. If they are not removed, the warts usually grow larger and multiply. Left untreated, the warts may lead to an increased risk of cancer in the affected area.
What treatments are available:
- If warts are very small and are located only on the skin around the anus, they may be treated with a topical medication.
- The warts are treated either by surgical removal or by using various procedures such as cryotherapy and laser therapy.
What can be done to avoid getting these warts again?
In some cases, warts may recur repeatedly after successful removal, since the virus that causes the 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 the 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.