Warts on Penis: What Causes Them, Symptoms & Treatment

Warts on the penis is a symptom of an HPV, or human papilloma virus, infection. These warts will mostly be noted to the penis gland and are generally skin-colored. HPV warts can be smooth in appearance or similar to cauliflower. 

Warts on the penis, which are also often referred to as condyloma, are mainly transmitted through unprotected sex. 

Although there is no treatment available to cure HPV, your doctor can prescribe creams and ointments to help with the appearance of warts, as well as laser, surgery or cryotherapy, which help to remove them. Abiding by your prescribed therapy will help to decrease the risk of transmission to other people. Read more about HPV in men and how it is transmitted.

Imagem ilustrativa número 1

What causes warts on the penis?

Warts on the penis are usually a sign of a sexually transmitted infection caused by HPV, usually type 6 or 11. Read more about the symptoms of HPV and how it is transmitted.

This virus infects the skin and mucous membranes, causing one or more lesions to appear in the genital area, mainly on the glans (head of the penis) of the penis. Learn more about what a wart on the penis can be.

Signs and symptoms 

The main symptoms of a wart on the penis are:

  • Small raised lesions, less than 5mm in diameter
  • Bumps are usually the same color as the skin, but they can also be a little darker
  • Flat or cauliflower-like bumps
  • Itching, redness or irritation at the site
  • Burning sensation or discomfort
  • Spontaneous bleeding from the lesion

Although they are most common on the head (or glans) of the penis, genital warts can also appear on the scrotum. In most cases, warts on the penis are not accompanied by other signs or symptoms, but they can cause psychological distress.

It is important to note that lesions on the penis can appear between 2 months and 20 years after initial infection and do not usually cause pain.

How it is transmitted

Warts on the penis are transmitted through direct contact of active lesions, which mainly occurs during unprotected. They can be transmitted orally, anally or vaginally, and can even occur without any type of penetration. Although it is more rare, genital warts can also be transmitted through the sharing of sex toys, underwear, towels, bath tubs and toilets. 

Other factors that increase your chances of contracting warts on the penis include: 

  • Having several sexual partners
  • Having another STI 
  • Having sex with a partner without knowing their health history 

In addition, people with compromised immune systems, like pregnant women, patients receiving cancer therapy, patients who use immunosuppressants, or patients with a history of HIV are at a higher risk for contracting warts. 

Confirming a diagnosis

A urologist should diagnose warts on the penis through assessment of the presenting symptoms, inspection lesions, and evaluation of the patient’s health history. 

The doctor may order further testing to help confirm a diagnosis, like bloodwork, a culture swab, or a peniscopy (which is a test that employs the use of a microscope to identify very small penile lesions).

Treatment options 

HPV is only totally cured once the body is able to manage and eliminate the virus on its own. There are some treatments, however, that can help to get rid of the warts, which can decrease the transmission of the virus to other people. 

The treatments indicated for the removal of genital warts will vary depending on the size and location of the lesions. They can include the use of medications, surgery, cryotherapy or laser therapy, or a combination of these. 

1. Medication

The application of creams and ointments, like trichloroacetic acid, podophyllum, and interferon may be prescribed to strengthen the immune system and prevent multiplication of HPV. 

Some creams and ointments may also be prescribed for topical application at home, like imiquimod. This should only be applied to affected areas on alternate days for about 16 weeks.  Podophyllotoxin is another option, and it can be applied to the lesions twice per day for 3 consecutive days.

2. Laser therapy

This type of treatment involves an intense light ray that destroys the blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to the wart. This helps to accelerate cellular death within the wart and helps to get rid of warts on the penis. 

3. Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy is a technique in which cold liquid nitrogen is applied to the lesions, which decreases blood flow and promotes cellular death. 

4. Surgery

This procedure is only indicated when the wart needs to be removed for further analysis. The surgery may also be recommended for people with many lesions, or with very large lesions that do not respond to other forms of treatment.