A wart is one of those skin growths that most people get at some point in their lives, usually on their hands or feet. For the most part, it’s a very minor concern that requires little treatment if any at all. When warts appear on the genital area, however, it can cause patients a lot more stress. Our board-certified dermatologists and physician assistants at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta are here to explain the difference between genital warts and other warts, and what you should do if you notice either condition on your skin.
Genital Warts vs. Other Warts
All warts are caused by a type of virus called human papillomavirus (or HPV). However, there are around 100 different known strains of HPV. Some cause no symptoms and are easily defeated by your immune system. Some others are constantly being passed around on your surface skin, and when they get into a cut or scrape on your skin, they cause a common wart, a plantar wart, or another variety of non-genital wart. And some are transmitted through sexual activity, causing genital warts. So while both genital and non-genital warts are caused by HPV, they’re caused by different strains of the virus.
What to Do if You Have Genital or Non-Genital Warts
Non-genital warts, like common warts (usually on the hands) and plantar warts (on the soles of the feet) often go away on their own. However, this can take months or even years, and the virus can spread during this time to cause more warts on your own body or warts on others as well. In some cases, especially for warts on the feet, some discomfort can arise as well. To clear these warts more quickly, our providers at DAA can treat them with a variety of methods, like topical medications, cryotherapy (“freezing” the wart), laser treatments, and other options. Even if you’re not sure whether you want to treat your wart, it’s best to schedule an appointment with our providers to make sure your growth is actually a wart and not something more serious like skin cancer.
In the case of genital warts, many of the treatments are similar. However, they are generally catered specifically to genital warts, so you should not try to treat them on your own, nor should you use medications that are designed for other types of warts. For genital warts, it’s always best to leave the treatment to a qualified medical professional with extensive experience in this procedure. Women should also keep in mind that if you have genital warts while you’re pregnant, you should begin treatment as early as possible and keep an eye out for new outbreaks. Genital warts can cause difficulty during childbirth, and in rare cases, you may be able to pass genital warts to your newborn during birth.
For both genital and non-genital warts, remember that wart removal treatments only get rid of warts themselves; they don’t cure the HPV that caused the warts. Particularly for genital warts, take preventative measures like wearing a condom for every sexual encounter and, if you’re a candidate, receiving an HPV vaccine.
Noticing a new growth on your skin can be an understandably worrisome experience. After all, the untrained eye would have no idea how to identify a new growth or know how serious it might be and how to treat it. Ultimately, it’s always best to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist who can give you a more definitive answer and help you take any additional steps necessary. If you’re concerned about a wart or other issue with your skin, call us at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta today. For more health information, skin care tips, and even special offers for our cosmetic treatments, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.