Men Get It Too

Equal Opportunity

Most women have heard of genital warts but lots of them have no idea that men can get them, too. Just as in women, these warts are caused by the Human Papilloma virus. And if that weren't enough to persuade you that the warts have a policy of equal opportunity, both males and females get the warts by having sex with an infected partner.

The warts are small, pink, cauliflower-shaped bumps on the genital mucosal skin. Sometimes there's one wart, and other times there are clusters which can grow bigger and may multiply over time. They may even decide to go away.

In males, genital warts tend to form on the head or shaft of the penis, on the scrotum and around the anus. The HPV virus consists of some 100 strains which cause various sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The virus may cause immediate symptoms or remain dormant for many years without any sign of its existence. In general, symptoms show up within three months of infection.

Male genital warts may cause no discomfort at all, or there may be some mild symptoms such as irritation, itching, or discomfort. In the worst scenario, you may experience bleeding, ulceration, pustules, or there may be pain and difficulty in eliminating urine and waste.

Perhaps the worst aspect of male genital warts is the fact that you have contracted a preventable and contagious disease that never goes away. In addition, you may feel much embarrassment about the appearance of your warts. If you should contract genital warts while you are in a committed relationship, you will need to have a frank talk with your partner—even if this threatens the status quo of your relationship. Your partner will need to be tested and if not infected, you will need to protect her by wearing a condom whenever you are intimate.

There are treatments to relieve the symptoms, such as topical creams like Imiquimod (Aldara) which boosts the immune system, Podofilox (Condylox) which destroys tissue, and Trichloroacetic acid, or TCA which burns off the warts. Other therapies include surgical excision, cryotherapy, electrocautery, and laser treatment. Over the counter treatments are not recommended since they can cause further irritation and pain.

Not for Men

While condoms help to prevent the spread of infection, it's best to avoid sex until the warts are treated. There is a vaccine for women against the HPV virus. It's called Gardasil and it offers protection against some of the most serious strains of HPV. Current guidelines suggest its use only in young girls and women who are not yet sexually active.