Editorial note: this article was updated on June 26, 2020
- Not a cure for HPV
- Less likely to leave a scar
- Recommended if you’re pregnant
- Treats widespread infections faster
- Needs aftercare and caution
- May require multiple treatments
- Seek a qualified doctor
Genital warts are considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI). They are a type of HPV virus. They are passed on through skin-to-skin contact. External genital warts can be unsightly, but not necessarily dangerous. This strain can appear on areas beyond the genitals, such as the anus, mouth and throat.
The problem comes when the HPV virus causes abnormal, cancerous cells to form in an infected area. This is why we now have an HPV vaccine as a preventative measure (for women under 45).
The good news is that there are treatments available if you do have external genital warts. These can range from medicines, to cryosurgery, electrocauterization and more. One option is laser genital wart removal. This is considered an aesthetic service, when the warts are not dangerous. We offer this treatment in the Vancouver area, at our Surrey clinic. It is not covered by MSP. So, patients who choose this option pay for it out of pocket.
You may be asking: what is the benefit of laser wart removal on the genitals? Why not go with an insured option?
Below we’ll answer some common questions about this procedure, so you can decide whether or not it’s right for you.
Laser genital wart removal is not a cure for HPV or cervical cancer
Keep in mind that while there are good reasons to get laser wart removal on the vagina, penis or anus, this is not a cure-all for the condition. It is a treatment for the visible warts that we can see. HPV may still be lurking in your body, not showing all of its visible signs yet. Lasers also can not help with pain, itching or other non-wart symptoms of HPV.
It is possible to prevent genital warts and their related cancers by:
- Abstaining from sex and using a condom if you do have sex. Also limit the number of sexual partners you engage with. Condoms can’t protect you from all skin-to-skin contact that happens during sex.
- Receiving an HPV vaccine approved by Health Canada (if you are a woman under 45).
Laser wart removal is less likely to leave a scar
Laser wart removal works with a very precise beam of light, to destroy wart cells causing excess growth on the skin. Because of its precision, it avoids harming the surrounding skin, which would be necessary with other treatment methods, such as surgical cutting or nitrogen freezing.
Since no cutting is involved, a laser wart treatment is less likely to leave a scar. People choose it mainly for this reason.
Laser genital wart removal is recommended for those who are pregnant
Another major ‘pro’ with laser genital wart removal, is that it is considered safe for those who are pregnant. Of course, this goes with the assumption that you are seeking treatment from a medically-run laser clinic, and not a purely aesthetic one. A doctor should be present.
Having genital warts during pregnancy can cause risks for a baby when it comes time for delivery. For this reason, doctors may strongly recommend that you have genital warts removed before your due date. Lasers can do this without medications.
You should follow your doctor’s advice before deciding if laser wart removal is a viable option during your pregnancy.
Laser genital wart removal is easier for widespread infections, or to treat many warts quickly
Undergoing any surgery, even with anesthesia, can be an arduous and painful process. If you have a widespread infection of genital warts, or many warts forming on your body, a laser can ‘zap’ these away much more quickly than other procedures can.
This can provide better patient comfort. That is another huge reason to consider it.
Laser genital wart removal requires aftercare by you, at home
There will be a blister and a scab with laser wart removal, like there would be with cryosurgery. So, some healing time will be needed. This can last anywhere from 10 to 30 days. It depends on your own body’s response to the procedure.
The doctor performing the laser surgery on your warts may give you specific instructions for aftercare, which you need to follow at home. This can include keeping the area clean, and using ointments to avoid infection.
Potential side effects can include pain, bleeding or discharge. If these things persist, call your doctor for advice.
A major consideration for your aftercare will be to avoid sexual activity until your warts are completely gone. This will prevent the spread of infection to others. However, you will never be fully safe when having unprotected sex, since you can still carry the infection after having your visible warts removed.
Laser genital wart removal may require multiple treatments to be effective
Removing your visible symptoms of an HPV infection can be an ongoing need. Even if a laser can destroy the warts you have now, new ones can appear later. Some warts also need more than one treatment to be completely killed off by the laser, or any other method.
Lasers can work on up to 40% of people, so they are not a sure-fire way to get rid of warts. They are usually considered the best option when your doctor has already tried other solutions, such as medications.
Do you want to get laser genital wart removal? See a qualified, experienced doctor
If, after reading the above, you think that laser genital wart removal is right for you, we encourage you to opt for a very qualified laser clinic to perform this procedure. It is pertinent that a doctor is running the clinic, in a medical setting. The doctor should also have good experience using lasers (not just hiring people to use lasers). The clinic should have results to show for its past genital wart removal clients.
Laser machines are not something taught in medical school. Understanding how they work, and knowing how to use them to treat patients effectively, takes additional training and experience. When dealing with an area as sensitive as the genitals, you will want only the best provider.