Currently, there is no treatment to cure HPV. It may live in your body forever, although most people’s bodies will naturally get rid of HPV over time. Treating the warts may possibly help reduce the risk of transmission to a partner who doesn’t have the types of HPV you might be carrying.
The goal of any treatment should be to get rid of annoying symptoms. There are several options available for removing warts and no particular treatment is best for all cases. When choosing which treatment to use, your healthcare provider will consider the size, location and number of warts, changes in the warts, your preference, cost of treatment, convenience, adverse effects, and their own experience with the treatments. Some treatments are done in a clinic or doctor's office; others are prescription creams that can be used at home.
Treatments done in the doctor's office include:
- Cryotherapy—freezing off the wart with liquid nitrogen.
- Podophyllin—a chemical compound to get rid of the warts. This is an older treatment and is not widely used today.
- TCA (trichloracetic acid)—a chemical compound applied to the surface of the wart.
- Cutting off warts—this gets rid of warts in a single office visit.
- Electrocautery—burning off warts with an electrical current.
- Laser therapy—using an intense light to destroy warts. This is used for larger or extensive warts, especially those that have not responded well to other treatments. Laser can be very expensive and is not available everywhere.
At-home creams available by doctor's prescription:
- Imiquimod cream (Aldara®) boosts the immune system to fight HPV and treat external genital warts. Although expensive, it is safe, effective and easy to use.
- Podofilox cream or gel (Condylox®) destroys the tissue of external genital warts over about four weeks. It is inexpensive, easy to use and safe.
IMPORTANT: Over-the-counter wart treatments should not be used in the genital area. They will not be effective.
If you have an abnormal Pap test, there are also multiple evaluation and treatments that can be done, depending on the extent of the cell changes. This may involve repeating the test more frequently for close monitoring, colposcopy (looking carefully at the cervix with a magnifying lens), or carefully freezing or removing the abnormal area. If you have an abnormal Pap test your clinician will be able to discuss with you the best options in your particular case.
Learn more about cervical cancer related to HPV and abnormal Pap smear results.