What are anal warts?
The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons defines anal warts also called “condyloma acuminata” as a condition that affects the area around and inside the anus. They may also affect the skin of the genital area.
What causes anal warts?
Anal warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is typically spread through sexual intercourse. Although anal warts are more common with people who practice anal sex, they can also spread to the anus from the genitals. According to the Centers of Disease Control Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. There are numerous strains of HPV; some cause warts on our extremities and others cause anal and genital warts (penis, scrotum, vagina or labia). The virus can have an incubation period of 1-6 months and sometimes much longer. During that period of time, the virus is inactive and patients may not have any symptoms at all.
What are symptoms of anal warts?
Patients with anal warts are often asymptomatic at first, but when symptoms do arise patients typically present with the following:
- Mucus discharge
- Feeling like there is a lump in the anal area
How are anal warts diagnosed?
Dr. Perryman will inspect the skin around the anus and look inside the anal canal with a small device called an anoscope. Anal warts have a characteristic appearance. Dr. Perryman may biopsy the warts to send to a pathology lab to verify the diagnosis.
How are anal warts treated?
For treatment options, it’s best to visit your Colon & Rectal Specialist. There may be topical medication options that essentially “freeze” or “burn” the warts. There are also surgical possibilities, which a specialist will discuss if you are a candidate. To research more about these potential methods and post-treatment prognosis visit the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) website: https://www.fascrs.org/patients/disease-condition/anal-warts-and-anal-dysplasia-expanded-information.
Are anal warts curable?
There are many treatment options but removal of a specific outbreak of warts will not cure the virus that caused them. The virus (HPV) will remain in a patient’s system indefinitely. Follow-up visits are necessary even after there are no visible warts. These visits could be necessary for years but are extremely important because (although rare) if warts are left untreated they can become cancerous.
How can the spreading of anal warts be prevented?
- Use condoms! Although they’re not 100% effective in preventing anal warts, you lesson your chances substantially by using protection
- You and your sexual partners should be checked for HPV and other STDs even when there are no symptoms
- Refrain from sexual activity with a partner who has anal warts until treatment is completed!
- If you have anal warts, always tell your partners!
The Centers of Disease Control strongly recommend the HPV vaccine which may prevent HPV. For more information on the vaccine visit:
If you think you may have anal warts, please contact Dr. Lisa A. Perryman at 303-840-8822.