What Does an Anal Wart Look Like?

A Woman Using a Pink Laptop and Covering Her Mouth

Anal warts (also known as condyloma acuminata) are growths on the skin around your anus and genital area. They’re caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease.

Your doctor can tell if you have anal warts from a physical exam. He or she may also use a tool called an anoscope to look inside your anus and genitals for warts that aren’t visible to the eye.

Symptoms

Anal warts are soft, dome-shaped bumps that may appear alone or in groups (cauliflower-like clusters). They’re light brown, yellow, pink or flesh-colored and often leak fluid. They’re caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is also responsible for genital warts and can lead to cancer if it stays in the body long enough. HPV usually spreads through unprotected sexual activity, but barrier methods like condoms and spermicidal gel can reduce the risk of anal warts.

An anal wart isn’t usually painful, but it may itch or bleed. Some people don’t have any symptoms at all and the warts go away on their own. But, if the warts grow and spread or cause pain, you need to see your doctor.

To diagnose anal warts, your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and look at the skin around your anus and genital area with a small tool called an anoscope. A pelvic exam may be needed for women or people assigned female at birth (AFAB). Your provider will need to know how many anal warts you have and where they’re located.

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If you have anal warts, your provider will probably recommend treatment. This can include topical medications or a solution applied with an enema to destroy the warts. Your provider may also recommend cryotherapy, where liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the warts, or surgery, where a surgeon removes the anal warts.

Diagnosis

Anal warts, also called condylomata acuminata, are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is commonly spread through sexual contact. Anal warts are different from genital warts, which are usually found on the penis, scrotum, or vagina. The HPV virus can linger in the body for one to six months before anal warts appear. Many people don’t have symptoms, but others may feel itching or irritation in the area or notice small growths.

Whether you have anal warts or genital warts, it’s important to see your doctor. Getting them treated early can prevent them from spreading and improving your overall health. It’s also recommended to get a vaccine for HPV, which can help reduce your risk of developing anal and genital warts in the future.

It’s normal to feel embarrassed about talking with your doctor about anal warts, but it’s important to seek treatment if you have them. Seeing your doctor for anal warts can help you find the right treatment option that fits with your lifestyle. Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and determine if your anal warts are caused by the HPV strains that have been linked to cancer. Some strains of HPV can lead to anal cancer, but this is rare. If anal warts aren’t removed, they can grow and bleed. A doctor can remove them surgically as a same-day procedure in the office.

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Treatment

There are several treatment options for anal warts, based on their location and size. Small anal warts, or those on the skin surrounding the anus, may be treated with medication that is applied directly to the warts by a healthcare provider. These medications include podophyllin, trichloroacetic acid and bichloroacetic acid, which cause the warts to slough off. The doctor may also prescribe ointments that people can apply at home to supplement this in-office procedure.

Larger warts, or those that extend into the anus canal, are usually treated with cauterization and surgical removal. This can be done as a same-day surgery in a hospital or surgery center, or under local anesthesia at home. People will need to follow up with the doctor, even after their anal warts are gone. This is because the HPV virus that caused the warts can remain in body cells.

Some strains of HPV can lead to a pre-cancerous condition called anal intraepithelial neoplasia (AIN). Although this is uncommon, it’s important to get any new growths checked by a healthcare provider. If AIN is diagnosed, treatment with a medication that works against this particular strain of HPV will be recommended. This will be a more extensive and involved procedure than those for anal warts, so people should discuss it with their healthcare provider. AIN may be associated with certain factors, including having genital warts, being a woman who has an abnormal PAP test, being infected with human papillomavirus during puberty, being in close contact with someone who has genital warts, and having immune suppression from conditions such as HIV, transplant or illness.

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Prevention

Anal warts, also known as condylomata acuminata, are small pedunculate growths caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that may not cause any symptoms in some people. It can linger in the body, eventually causing genital warts, including anal warts, in other people.

Anal warts start as tiny, soft, dome-shaped bumps that are light brown or yellow and often have a cauliflower-like appearance. They can grow into larger clusters and cause pain or bleeding. In some cases, the body clears anal warts on its own. However, warts can recur frequently.

To diagnose anal warts, your healthcare provider will examine your skin around your anus and genital area. They will look inside your anus with a tool called an anoscope. They may also want to take a sample of anal warts for further testing, which involves removing the warts with a needle and examining them under a microscope.

The best way to prevent anal warts is to practice safe sex and use condoms during all sex. If you develop anal warts, follow your doctor’s treatment plan. It’s important to attend your follow up appointments after treatment, as the warts can recur. There are some strains of HPV that can lead to anal cancer, but most anal warts are not caused by these viruses.