- Diagnoses 4a. What do they look like?
What are Anal Warts?
Also called Condyloma acuminata, Anal Warts are a type of genital warts which form in or around the anus. While it sounds truly gruesome, they aren’t usually painful if they are treated early on in the process.
Because they are contagious, it is possible that they can spread to other parts of the anus or to the genitals, especially with itching or touching. Younger people (older teens and young adults) with strong immune systems typically have a good chance of fighting them off faster.
How do you get Anal Warts?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more than half of sexually active men and women these days will contract HPV at least once in their life.
What causes anal warts (and all genital warts for that matter – of which anal warts are a type) are the sexually transmitted infection (STI) called HPV (human papillomavirus). The CDC states that the majority of cases of Genital HPV are caused by vaginal or anal sex. The infection can also still spread even without intercourse (with contact in the region).
The HPV STI is transmitted between people through skin to skin contact of the penis, anis, vagina or mouth with someone who is infected with human papillomavirus. Even if there are no warts symptoms (no visible warts), transmission can still occur.
There are a lot of cautions about HPV as it has been linked directly with forms of genital and cervical cancer. The HPV that lead to anal warts are not something to brag to your friends about. But they are also not the type which usually results in cancer.
Anal Warts Symptoms
Anal warts are a form of genital warts and similarly, start as tiny bumps and possibly can go for a little while without notice. It’s common that there will be no symptoms at all. Particularly if they were at the beginning stages or you have a strong immune system.
In many cases, there will be no pain and no or mild discomfort. But you’re here online searching for answers so we’re going to assume you’re probably experiencing some kind of symptoms. Some of the more rare and unpleasant symptoms are bleeding, itching and discharge from the anal region.
If you have warts in other parts of your genital regions (vulva, cervix or vagina for women or scrotum, penis, groin or thighs for men), it’s very possible they could have spread to the anal area from scratching or touching. Anal warts do not equate to anal sex.
Deep kissing or oral sex with someone with HPV/genital warts could result in an infection in the throat or mouth.
What do Anal Warts Look Like
If symptoms do show up, often in the start, they are a small dot or lump that is not even visible to the eye. They can then grow to have cauliflower-look as they get bigger, sometimes with multiple warts clustered together.
Color-wise, they could blend in with the color of your skin or they may be yellow, pink, light brown, tan or peach-colored.
Diagnosing Anal Warts
When a doctor gives someone a visual examination for anal warts, they will usually use a tool called an anoscope. They will usually do an internal exam to search for warts in the anal canal.
Doctors will sometimes dab vinegar (acetic acid) to the affected area which makes the warts/bumps become white and more visible.
Biopsy of the warts can also be done to confirm the diagnosis if the prescribed medications/treatments are not working. For women, a pap smear might be part of the full examination of the pelvic region to check for any other kinds of genital warts.
For any medical situation, seeing your doctor is always advised (we recommend it). I understand in the age of the internet and medical sites, many will be looking to self-diagnose. Most of us want to get some practical treatments going right away to see if that takes care of the situation.
Anal Warts Treatment
Depending upon your doctor’s experience, how aggressive (how many warts and how big) your case is, your personal preferences as a patient (natural remedies vs. prescriptions and over the counter) and the location of the warts (internal/external), there are different directions the treatment can go. We’ve provided a full page on anal warts treatment for even more information.
Untreated, some forms of anal warts may lead to cancer in the affected if left untreated. It’s possible that they could also continue to grow and multiply so doing nothing is probably not the right solution.
How to Get Rid of Anal Warts – Natural Treatments
Many people these days look to natural treatments and there are many, many testimonials around the internet of people who have had great success with these methods. You could even discuss these with your doctor. Apple Cider Vinegar for anal warts is very popular. While we cover these in detail in our treatment page, these are some of the recommended natural cures:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Tea Tree Oil
- Green tea
- Rest & Exercise: Strengthen the Immune System to help your body fight
Anal Warts Surgery & Topical Treatments
It’s possible that if the anal warts are internal, topical medications may not work in which case surgery could be required.
Here are some topical treatment options:
- Trichloroacetic acid, or Podophyllin which burns warts,
- Liquid nitrogen which freezes the warts
- If the warts are very small (still little white bumps) around the anus topical creams can work on the skin surrounding the anus.
- When the warts are internal or are too large that the above isn’t working, surgery may be your best option. Your doctor would do an internal examination to find and treat any lesions inside your anus. Warts will be surgically removed.
Anal Warts Prevention
While there is no surefire way to prevent HPV/Anal Warts, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You can still do things which will help reduce the odds of contracting this STI:
- When you use a public shower, public pool or locker room such as at the gym, always wear sandals or flip-flops to avoid making contact with place infected people could have stepped.
- Kind of obvious, but try not to touch someone else’s wart. We know no one says “Nice wart, can I touch it?” But if someone does have warts, good idea to avoid.
- If you already have a wart, don’t pick at it or scratch it as it can spread to other areas.
- Separate clothing items, towels, and sheets that come into contact with the wart. Using a towel and making contact with a genital wart and then using it on other areas such as the anus could cause spreading.
Two well-known ways to limit the spread of anal warts and HPV:
- Barrier methods are not absolute but help. Using a condom could greatly reduce exposure.
- abstaining from or limiting the partners with who you have sexual contact
HPV vaccines are available on the market. The CDC recommends that people should get immunized for HPV up to the age 26. kids aged 11 or 12 should get two HPV vaccine shots 12 months apart. Over 14, three shots will need to be given.
In most cases, HPV will not turn into cancer and are not life threating. In the majority of cases, in people with healthy immune systems, the body can eventually fight it off. Sadly though, in some cases, HOV stays in the body and anal warts develop.
With treatment options available from your doctor and/or with some natural remedies, you should be able to beat it and move on with your life.
In the event of anal warts, seeing your doctor should be a solid first step to make sure you know exactly what you have, even if you’re choosing to go with home remedies to cure it. It’s a good idea to then do a follow-up visit 3 or 4 months later.