Genital warts are caused by the Human papillomavirus (HPV). There are different kinds of HPV and not all of them cause warts.
Genital warts look ugly and can be uncomfortable but the good news is that they are caused by the low-risk HPV strains. There are HPV strains that cause more serious conditions like cancer, but genital warts rarely develop into cancer.
What do genital warts look like?
Genital warts look like small bumps on the skin. They may take the appearance of cauliflower and can appear either on the penis in men, vagina in women, and anal area in both genders. Warts are usually painless but can be unsightly and cause discomfort.
How are genital warts transmitted?
HPV is one of the most easily spread sexually transmitted infections. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. Not everybody infected with HPV can develop warts. You can have HPV and show no symptoms.
Condoms will offer some protection against an HPV infection but not this is not 100% guaranteed as the infection can be spread through skin-to-skin contact as well.
Some people will develop just one or two bumps of warts or a small cluster, while others can have a more serious case of the condition and develop a cluster of warts up to the size of a tennis ball.
How are genital warts treated?
There is currently no cure for HPV infection, but the symptoms it causes can be treated. The HPV strain that causes warts does not cause other serious diseases like cancer. If you have developed genital warts, you should simply get them treated and you will be fine.
How are genital warts treated in Nigeria?
Nigeria, like most parts of Africa, still operates a traditional society and people presenting symptoms of an STI are sneered at. This situation has led to a lot of infected people shying away from seeking treatment on time.
A warts infection may get worse if left untreated over a long period or if the person has other infections like HIV. It is also common for genital warts to disappear on their own without treatment.
The kind of treatment you need for your genital warts will depend on the seriousness of your condition, the kind of treatment available in your locality and what you can afford.
In Nigeria, warts are easily treated with three common ointments and drugs – imiquimod, podophyllin cream and trichloroacetic acid (TCA).
Imiquimod comes in the form of a cream, mostly marketed under the trade name Aldara™. Imiquimod works by instructing your immune system to get rid of warts. Each time you apply the cream, it stimulates the immune system to release a number of cytokines, which focuses on eliminating warts and other weird growths on the skin.
Imiquimod is very limited in supply in Nigeria and getting the cream can be harder.
2. Podophyllin cream
Use of podophyllin resin or podophyllotoxin cream is the commonest way to treat genital warts in Nigeria. The resin is very effective in treating warts, especially anal warts.
Podophyllin is easily available in most pharmacies and drug stores across Nigeria. You can buy this drug over the counter, but you may need the help of a doctor to apply it. Podophyllin resin is a cytotoxic agent that works by killing wart cells so they eventually die and drop off.
Podophyllin resin can hurt when applied. You should cover the exposed skin around warts with petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) before applying the resin and be careful to apply only on the warts tissue and not spill over other areas of skin.
NOTE: You should not use Podophyilin to treat internal warts that are deep inside the rectum or vagina.
Apply podophyllin twice daily for 3 days and then pause for four days. If all warts have not fallen off, you can repeat treatment.
c. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA)
A solution of 60 – 90% of trichloroacetic acid (TCA) has been found to be effective in treating small lesions of genital warts. TCA is not used to treat large and serious cases of genital warts. It can be used for both warts that appear inside the vagina and anal area.
Apply a small amount of TCA on the wart tissue and leave until a white frosting occurs. Repeat application every week for up to 6 weeks, until warts are gone.
You can easily buy 85% trichloroacetic acid (TCA) in pharmacy or skincare shops around Lagos, Nigeria. Asides genital warts, TCA can also be used to treat skin tags and moles and remove tattoos.
Cryotherapy for genital warts in Nigeria
For serious cases of genital warts, I would advise you to go for cryotherapy. During cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the warts and they fall off.
There are many clinics in Lagos that offer cryotherapy services and other treatment for genital warts.