Anal Warts (Condyloma)
Anal warts, also known as condyloma, are growths found on the skin around the anus (rectal opening) or in the lower rectum.
Anal warts are caused by the human papilloma virus, which is usually transmitted through sexual contact but not necessarily through anal intercourse. There are many types of human papilloma virus; some cause warts on the hands and feet and others cause genital and anal warts. The same type of warts may occur on the penis, scrotum, vagina or labia. The time from exposure to the virus and growth of the warts is commonly from one to six months, but it can be longer. During that time, the virus remains in the tissues but is inactive.
Many patients with anal warts have no symptoms. Some patients may notice small growths in the anal area. Others have minor complaints of itching, occasional bleeding, or moisture in the anal canal.
Diagnosis is made by the doctor, who inspects skin around the anus and checks the anal canal with an anoscope (a short instrument inserted into the anus).
There are several ways anal warts can be treated, depending on the location, number and size of the warts. If the warts are small, they can be treated with podophyllin or bichloracetic acid, which are solutions applied directly to the warts intended to cause sloughing of the wart. This is an office procedure that takes just a few minutes. Occasionally, an ointment will be prescribed that is applied by the patient at home. This supplements the treatment provided in the office. Another form of treatment is cauterization. If the area contains numerous warts, the doctor may choose to remove them surgically. This is done as a same-day procedure in a hospital or surgery center.
A single treatment will not cure anal warts in most cases. Close follow-up is critical because the virus may continue to be present and cause new anal warts to form. Even after there are no visible warts, the virus may remain in the tissue. Small warts that reappear are easily treated in the office. Follow-up visits are necessary even after there are no visible warts. Visits may be necessary for several months. There is a possibility of serious problems if the warts are left untreated. Rarely, these warts can become cancerous, so it is important to keep the follow-up appointments the doctor suggests.
There are several ways to prevent this virus from spreading:
- Sexual partners should be checked.
- Refrain from sexual activity until treatment is completed.
- Use condoms. They offer some, but not complete, protection.
Because anal warts are highly contagious, you will lessen your chance of recurrence if these suggestions are followed.