WHAT ARE ANAL WARTS?
Anal warts (also called “condyloma acuminata”) are a condition that affects the area around and inside the anus. They may also affect the skin of the genital area. They first appear as tiny spots or growths, perhaps as small as the head of a pin, and may grow larger than the size of a pea. Usually, they do not cause pain or discomfort to afflicted individuals. As a result, patients may be unaware that the warts are present. Some patients will experience symptoms such as itching, bleeding, mucus discharge and/or a feeling of a lump or mass in the anal area.
WHAT CAUSES THESE WARTS?
They are thought to be caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is transmitted from person to person by direct contact. HPV is considered a sexually transmitted disease. You do not have to have anal intercourse to develop anal condyloma.
DO THESE WARTS ALWAYS NEED TO BE REMOVED?
Yes. If they are not removed, the warts usually grow larger and multiply. If left untreated, the warts may lead to an increased risk of cancer in the affected area.
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?
If warts are very small and are located only on the skin around the anus, they may be treated with a topical medication. They may also be treated by a physician by freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen. Warts may also be removed surgically. Surgery provides immediate results but must be performed using either a local anesthetic – such as novocaine – or a general or spinal anesthetic, depending on the number and exact location of warts being treated. Warts inside the anal canal usually are not suitable for treatment by medications, and in most cases need to be treated surgically.
MUST I BE HOSPITALIZED FOR SURGICAL TREATMENT?
No. Surgical treatment of anal warts is usually performed as outpatient surgery.
HOW MUCH TIME WILL I LOSE FROM WORK AFTER SURGICAL TREATMENT?
Most people are moderately uncomfortable for a few days after treatment, and pain medication may be prescribed. Depending on the extent of the disease, some people return to work the next day, while others may remain out of work for several days.
WILL A SINGLE TREATMENT CURE THE PROBLEM?
Recurrent warts are common. The virus that causes the warts can live concealed in tissues that appear normal for several months before another wart develops. As new warts develop, they usually can be treated in the physician’s office. Sometimes new warts develop so rapidly that office treatment would be quite uncomfortable. In these situations, a second and occasionally third outpatient surgical visit may be recommended.
HOW LONG IS TREATMENT USUALLY CONTINUED?
Follow-up visits are necessary at frequent intervals for several months after the last wart is observed to be certain that no new warts occur.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO AVOID GETTING THESE WARTS AGAIN?
In some cases, warts may recur repeatedly after successful removal, since the virus that causes the warts often persists in a dormant state in body tissues. Discuss with you physician how often you should be evaluated for recurrent warts. Abstain from sexual contact with individuals who have anal (or genital) warts. Since many individuals may be unaware that they suffer from this condition, sexual abstinence, condom protection or limiting sexual contact to single partner will reduce your potential exposure to the contagious virus that causes these warts. As a precaution, sexual partners ought to be checked, even if they have no symptoms.
© 2008 American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons