Therapeutic options for external genital warts.
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The primary goal of treatment for external genital warts (EGWs) is to eradicate visible lesions and address symptoms that may accompany them, but it does not address the underlying virus. Left untreated, warts may grow, remain the same, or spontaneously regress as a result of being cleared by the immune system. However, recurrence is common with or without treatment and may occur within 3 months of ending treatment in one-quarter to two-thirds of cases. Treatment options fall into two categories: provider or patient applied. Provider-based therapies include cryotherapy, trichloroacetic and bichloroacetic acid, electrocautery, surgical excision, and CO2 laser therapy. Patient-applied therapy choices include imiquimod and podophyllotoxin. Imiquimod 3.75% is a fairly new, patient-administered topical cream approved by Health Canada in 2011. Another recently approved patient-applied choice is sinecatechins, a green tea extract with immunomodulatory effects. Self-treatment options are attractive to patients because they offer privacy, convenience, and autonomy. In contrast, provider-administered therapies may boast increased precision (especially for areas that are hard to reach) and closer monitoring, which can be augmented by patient education and counseling. Available topical and surgical therapies vary widely in terms of cost, efficacy, adverse effects, dosage/frequency, and length of treatment. No one treatment is ideally suited to all patients or constitutes a gold standard. Treatment regimens must be tailored to each patient's needs and preferences. The health care provider's skills and experience will also factor into treatment decisions. In addition, the size, number, and location of lesions and whether the infection is new or recurrent will help guide the decision process toward the best treatment for a given patient.
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