Visible genital warts on the penis or vagina or around the anus are removed by excision, which means cutting the warts off with a surgical knife (scalpel). Warts on the cervix may be removed by laser or loop electrosurgical excision (LEEP).
The procedure is usually done in a doctor's office or clinic or an outpatient surgery center. You receive medicine that numbs the area around the warts (local anesthetic). Stitches (sutures) usually close the incisions.
For women, abnormal cervical cell changes caused by HPV will be treated differently than genital warts caused by HPV. Your doctor may recommend certain types of surgery, such as surgical excision. To learn more about surgical methods to treat abnormal cell changes, see the topic Abnormal Pap Test.
What To Expect After Surgery
Recovery time depends on the location and number of warts removed.
Most people will be able to return to normal activities within 1 to 3 days.
Healing takes 2 to 4 weeks.
Scarring may occur.
For men and women who have had genital warts removed, call your doctor for any of the following:
Bleeding that lasts longer than 1 week
Bad-smelling or yellowish discharge, which may indicate an infection
Avoid sexual intercourse until the treated area heals and soreness is gone (usually 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the size of the area treated).
Why It Is Done
Surgery is used to remove warts that return after other treatments. It also may be used when warts are widespread. A single treatment may be all that is needed.
How Well It Works
Surgery may be an effective treatment. But surgery may cause more pain than other treatments.footnote 1
Risks of surgery are:
Infection. You may receive antibiotics at the time of the procedure, to reduce the risk of infection.
Pain. You may need medicine for several days after the procedure.
What To Think About
Treating genital warts may not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus may remain in the body in an inactive state after warts are removed. A person treated for genital warts may still be able to spread the infection. Condoms may help reduce the risk of HPV infection.
The benefits and effectiveness of each type of treatment need to be compared with the side effects and cost. Discuss this with your doctor.
Buck HW (2010). Warts (genital), search date December 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.