Anal warts

What are anal warts?

Anal warts are small growths that develop in and around the anus and are a form of genital warts. In most cases, warts do not cause discomfort or pain. However, they can become irritating and may itch or bleed if they become large. People with anal warts may not know they have them if no symptoms occur. Anal warts may develop in only one location, or they may spread to different parts of the genitals and anus over time.

What are the symptoms of anal warts?

In most cases, anal warts are painless. A person may be completely unaware that they have anal warts. But if a person does have symptoms, they may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Itching and anus discharge
  • Bumps near or inside the anus that are usually brown, yellow, pink or skin-colored
  • Small cauliflower-like growths around the anus
  • The sensation of a lump in the anal area

In some cases, anal warts can be mistaken for hemorrhoids.

What are the causes of anal warts?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of anal warts. But we must not forget that there are many different strains of HPV.

About 90% of anal warts are caused by HPV type 6 or type 11. HPV strains can also cause these warts on other parts of the body, including the nose, eyes, and mouth.

In most cases, people develop anal warts because of anal intercourse with a person infected with HPV.

However, it is possible for a person to develop anal warts through hand-to-anal contact or exposure to the infected fluids of a sexual partner around the anal area can also cause anal warts.

Are anal warts contagious?

Anal warts are contagious, especially during their outbreak. However, A patient can transmit HPV to other people even if they do not have any warts and can also transmit the virus when undergoing treatment for anal warts.

How to diagnose anal warts?

The doctor can diagnose anal warts by performing a physical examination. They may use a medical instrument called a speculum to view the inside of the anal canal and determine whether warts are present.

The doctor can usually tell from a visual examination whether the bumps or blisters in the anus are due to HPV.

Sometimes, the doctor may perform a biopsy, which involves taking a sample of wart tissue and sending it out for further testing if warts do not respond to treatment.

What are the treatment options for anal warts?

The treatment options for anal warts depend on their number, size, and symptoms.

Sometimes the body eliminates the HPV by itself, or warts go away without treatment. Therefore, doctors may recommend waiting to see what happens after a small outbreak if a person is not keen on continuing treatment at that time.

However, HPV can remain dormant in a person’s body for several years. Therefore, even after a person undergoes treatment, anal warts may sometimes return.

When a doctor decides that treatment is necessary, they may suggest one of the following options:

    • Topical treatments. If the symptoms are mild, and if the warts are not very large, the doctor may prescribe a topical medication that eliminates warts.
    • Cryotherapy. This treatment involves the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze warts, which consequently causes them to fall off.
    • Electrotherapy. In this procedure, the doctor uses an electric device to burn off warts. 
    • Laser therapy. This treatment uses the energy transmitted from an intense light beam and is usually used for advanced cases of anal warts.
    • Surgical treatment. The doctor will recommend surgical treatment if the warts are large, located inside the anal canal, or did not respond to other treatments. The surgery is done as an outpatient procedure under general anesthesia, and it involves cutting warts off.

After anal warts are removed, the patient may need to take a few days off work. They may want to take over-the-counter pain relievers, or their doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications.

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