The human papillomavirus (HPV) has more than 100 virus types, some riskier than others. Unfortunately, there is no cure for someone infected with any of them. And in case you’re wondering about the effectiveness of antibiotics, they don’t work against viral infections like HPV. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections.
More people worldwide contract HPV than any other sexually transmitted disease. The majority of HPV-infected people have robust enough immune systems to eradicate the virus from their bodies naturally. They may never experience any symptoms either.
For people whose immune systems cannot remove HPV from the body, their doctors can offer treatments for symptoms like genital warts and abnormal cell changes. But get the treatment fast before the cell changes become cancerous.
The HPV vaccine is the best protection for younger people who have never had sex or contracted HPV. That way, their bodies will build the antibodies needed to protect them from HPV once they start having sex.
Treatment for HPV Genital Warts
Low-risk HPV infections won’t usually cause cancer, but they can cause abnormal skin cell changes that progress into small clusters of painless genital warts on the skin surface.
Genital warts should go away on their own. However, there are some cases where the genital warts remain on your skin surface indefinitely. They may grow bigger and become more uncomfortable if the abnormal cell changes continue.
Therefore, you may be interested in finding treatments to reduce the size of genital warts or remove them from the skin altogether.
Here are some treatment options below:
Your doctor can prescribe topical podophyllotoxin-based liquid or cream solutions like Condyline or Warticon. Podophyllotoxin is a natural plant extract containing antiviral properties.
After applying the liquid or cream solution to the warts on the skin surface, it slows down the abnormal cell changes to prevent the virus from growing and spreading any further. Once that happens, the existing abnormal skin cells weaken and die off, leaving new healthy skin cells to replace them. Then you shouldn’t see as many warts.
Cryotherapy is a treatment where a doctor freezes off genital warts from the skin by using liquid nitrogen. You may feel a minor burning sensation on the affected skin as the liquid nitrogen freezes off your warts. This feeling is normal.
You can expect blistering for about 1 to 2 weeks, during which the warts will begin to fall off after they dry up enough. If any warts remain on the skin after two weeks, you should see your doctor for additional treatment to remove them.
Trichloroacetic acid is an advanced topical solution to burn off warts. After applying the acid to the affected skin, the proteins in the wart cells weaken and become destroyed. Apply the acid every week for up to 10 weeks or until all the warts have been destroyed.
Only a trained doctor or medical professional can apply the acid to the skin. Laypeople cannot buy this acid at the pharmacy or apply it themselves.
Large or severe warts may require surgical removal or excision to eliminate them. The surgeon cuts off the warts from the skin and then stitches the open skin to close it back up.
The typical healing time is about 2 to 4 weeks before the incisions heal completely. However, you may still have permanent scars left behind once the incisions heal. That is why you should consider surgery a last resort after trying all other treatments.
Electrocautery is a procedure where the doctor uses a low-voltage electrical probe to burn off genital warts from the skin surface. The doctor will give you a local anesthetic to numb the affected area before burning off the warts. That way, you won’t feel any pain or discomfort.
Sometimes a general anesthetic may be recommended to make you unconscious if several warts need to be burned off. The doctor will discuss the options based on your particular situation.
The recovery time to fully heal after the procedure is about 2 to 4 weeks. But if a lot of skin tissue was removed, the healing time could surpass four weeks.
A laser removal procedure utilizes the power of laser technology to remove warts with powerful hot light pulses. The doctor applies light to the wart’s red blood cells to heat them until they are destroyed. You may experience minor pain during the procedure, but it is usually tolerable without needing a local anesthetic.
The recovery time to fully heal after the procedure usually takes approximately 2 to 4 weeks. Since laser removal treatment is a new way to remove genital warts, little information is known about its effectiveness versus the effectiveness of other wart removal procedures.
The over-the-counter medications sold at retail stores and pharmacies are unsuitable for treating genital warts. So if you apply these topical treatment products to your genital warts, you could worsen the symptoms rather than improve them.
Therefore, you should only seek treatment to remove genital warts from a healthcare professional or medical specialist. Never attempt to remove genital warts by yourself.
How to Stop Flare-Ups from HPV
Genital wart treatments are only temporary solutions for reducing genital wart growth. They won’t remove the HPV infection responsible for growing those warts in the first place. As a result, you may experience flare-ups and wart regrowth after removing them.
Sometimes it can take several months for genital warts to regrow after removing them. It all depends on whether the virus is still in your body. After all, the only permanent solution for eliminating genital warts and preventing flare-ups is to rely on your immune system to eradicate the HPV infection from your body. Once the HPV is gone, you won’t have any more symptoms.
There is no evidence of other conditions like asthma or herpes trigging HPV flare-ups. But if you have a weak or poor immune system, you can expect outbreaks of genital wart growth because your immune system won’t be strong enough to eliminate the HPV infection.
The Power of the Immune System
The body’s immune system is the number one weapon against an HPV infection. Since there is no outside cure for HPV, only your immune system can eliminate the virus.
Fortunately, people’s immune systems have eliminated HPV within 24 months in about 90% of all infection cases. In fact, many of these infections cleared up within six months. On the other hand, HPV infections that don’t clear within 24 months will significantly increase your risk of cancer. These high-risk HPV infections cause cancer in about 1% of all HPV infection cases.
So how do you develop a robust immune system to eradicate HPV fast? Genetics may have a small role in it, but your lifestyle habits are much bigger factors. For instance, a good diet and exercise regimen goes a long way in strengthening the immune system so that it can eradicate an HPV infection from the body. There’s also clinical evidence showing the effectiveness of mushroom derived supplements such as AHCC.
Another thing you can do is quit smoking tobacco products because they can weaken your immune system and slow the process of eliminating HPV infections. Furthermore, smoking could increase your risk of developing more severe health issues and long-term symptoms, such as genital warts, abnormal cell changes, and cancer.
Please note that no clinical research has proven the effective link between lifestyle changes and the speed of eliminating HPV infections. But since lifestyle changes improve immune health, one can assume a healthier immune system could do a faster job of eliminating HPV.
Is There a Cure for HPV?
There is no known cure for HPV. The best thing to do is get the HPV vaccine before engaging in sexual activity. Then you can prevent low-risk and high-risk HPV infections and the potential consequences that would follow, such as genital warts and cancer.
The HPV vaccine is not a cure. Instead, it is a preventative solution to stopping HPV from infecting the body. But if HPV has infected the body already, the HPV vaccine cannot eliminate it. You also can’t use the HPV vaccine to remove existing genital warts.
The HPV vaccine is entirely safe to take. Contrary to the rumors, you cannot become infected or develop genital warts from getting the vaccine because it has no live virus.
Will There Ever Be a Cure for HPV?
Medical researchers are currently working on finding a cure for HPV. But unfortunately, medical science is in the early stages of developing a cure, so don’t expect one anytime soon.
University researchers from Birmingham and Leeds have studied how HPV enters the body and infects cells. Their research found a specific protein called STAT3 responsible for assisting HPV to infect cells and then duplicate the abnormal cells. They also found the individual enzymes accountable for stimulating the protein to help HPV.
Now that researchers have discovered these HPV-friendly proteins and enzymes, they believe they can create special drugs to target them directly. That way, HPV won’t be able to infect cells and duplicate new abnormal cells.
Recent clinical trials tested the effectiveness of a new treatment called lopimune on HPV-infected patients in Kenya. Lopimune contains two antiviral HIV drugs: ritonavir and lopinavir. The results showed promise in their effectiveness because 82% of the patients had tested HPV-negative after one year of taking the drug. Aside from that, a therapeutic vaccine to boost the immune system is currently in the works. It is supposed to help the immune system stop an HPV infection from causing more severe health issues in patients.
However, it is not a preventative vaccine like the traditional HPV vaccine because you take the therapeutic vaccine after getting infected rather than before. More information about therapeutic vaccines will likely come out in the months and years ahead.