Causes and Treatment and Prevention
What Are Anal Warts?
Anal warts are the visible manifestation of a viral infection that may affect the skin of the genital area. They are often mistaken for hemorrhoids, as they can grow to a noticeable size, if left untreated. Usually they are not painful when small. Anal warts can be a cause of anal itching or irritation, bleeding or mucous discharge. Anogenital warts can infect the skin and be visible over the genital region, from the pubic hair region in front of the penis or vagina, to the anus and into the anal canal in back. Anal warts do not infect the upper rectum and colon lining. Your doctor may want to examine the skin of the genitalia for the presence of warts.
What Causes Anal Warts?
Anal warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is transmitted from person to person by direct contact. HPV is considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). You do not have to have anal intercourse to develop anal warts.
What Are The Treatment Options For Anal Warts?
It is important to remove warts, as they can grow and multiply. They are also infectious to other partners. Left untreated, the HPV virus may increase the risk of developing cancer in the anal region and anal canal.
An office examination including anoscopic examination of the anal canal will determine the most appropriate treatment option. Small warts can be treated in the office setting with topical medication. Prescription medications may also be recommended for home treatment with scheduled follow-up office examination.
For a larger wart burden it may be necessary to schedule surgical treatment at an outpatient surgical center. This will permit a thorough examination under anesthesia and complete removal of all visible HPV affected tissue. Surgical management may also include High-Resolution Anoscopy, a technique that can identify effected skin with potentially greater accuracy.
Ongoing Care For Anal Warts
Following initial care, it is important to periodically check for the presence or re-occurrence of warts, as the HPV virus can persist as a chronic infection in normal appearing skin. Speak with your doctor about the appropriate interval for future surveillance exams.
There are many resources available on the Internet that speak on the subject of anogenital HPV infection. One website that we like, and recommend as a good place to start, is The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation .
Another resource is the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgery web site.
We firmly believe in the benefits of obtaining the HPV vaccine, especially for both boys and girls starting at age 11 or 12.
For persons who are older than age 11-12 and did not previously receive the vaccine, there may still be benefit. Please refer to the CDC website link above for details and information.
For those persons already infected with HPV, who have not previously obtained the vaccine, there still may be a benefit in obtaining the vaccine. We can offer you guidance and recommendations.
It is important that the embarrassment or anxiety of having a painful, itchy or palpable lump in the anal region not prevent you from seeking assessment and help. Please call our office for appointment.