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Condyloma Acuminata

Description of Medical Condition

Condyloma acuminata are soft skin colored, fleshy warts that are caused by the HPV (human papilloma virus). There are now > 100 known types of HPV and types 6, 11,16,18, 31, 33, 35 have been associated with condyloma acuminata. The disease is highly contagious, can appear singly or in groups, small or large. They appear in the vagina, on the cervix, around the external genitalia and rectum, in the urethra, anus, also conjunctival, nasal, oral and laryngeal warts and occasionally, the throat. The incubation period may be from 1-6 months.

Condyloma Acuminata

System(s) affected: Skin/Exocrine, Reproductive

Genetics: N/A

Incidence/Prevalence in USA:

  • Most common viral sexually transmitted disease in the U.S.
  • =1% of sexually active population in U.S. has genital warts
  • 26% transmission after single encounter
  • Minimum of 10-20% of sexually active women may be infected with HPV. Studies in men suggest a similar prevalence.
  • 750,000 new cases per year; rates are increasing
  • Peak prevalence is in ages 17-33
  • Pregnancy and immunosuppression favor recurrence and increasing growth of lesions

Predominant age: 15-30 years of age

Predominant sex: Male = Female

Medical Symptoms and Signs of Disease

  • Tumors, soft, sessile
  • Surface smooth to very rough
  • Multiple fingerlike projections
  • Perianal condylomata acuminatum usually rough and cauliflower-like
  • Penile lesions often smooth and papular
  • Penile lesions often occur in groups of three or four
  • Male sites — frenulum, corona, glans, prepuce, meatus. shaft, scrotum
  • Female sites — labia, clitoris, periurethral area, perineum, vagina, cervix (flat lesions)
  • Pruritus
  • Irritation
  • Bleeding (result of trauma)
  • Perianal area (both sexes)
  • Subclinical HPV infection
  • May be detected by Pap test

What Causes Disease?

Human papillomaviruses. These are circular double-stranded DNA molecules. There are over 70 HPV subtypes. The cause of common venereal warts is types 6 and 11. Cervical dysplasia and carcinoma in situ are likely caused by types 16. 18, 31,33, and 35.

Risk Factors

  • Young adult
  • Sexually active
  • Not using condoms
  • Possibly subclinical infection
  • Young age of commencing sexual activity
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Poor hygiene
  • Pregnancy
  • Caucasian
  • History of genital warts

Diagnosis of Disease

Differential Diagnosis

  • Condyloma lata (flat warts of syphilis)
  • Lichen planus
  • Normal sebaceous glands
  • Seborrheic keratosis
  • Molluscum contagiosum
  • Keratomas
  • Scabies
  • Crohn disease
  • Skin tags
  • Melanocytic nevi
  • Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia
  • Buschke-Lowenstein tumor


Serologic test for syphilis — negative

Drugs that may alter lab results: N/A

Disorders that may alter lab results: N/A

Pathological Findings

  • Possible cervical dysplasia in females
  • Benign
  • Well organized basal layer
  • Underlying infiltration of lymphocytes
  • Plasma cells
  • Hyperplastic epithelial changes
  • Basement membrane intact
  • Sometimes difficult to differentiate from squamous cell carcinoma

Special Tests

Aceto-whitening: Subclinical lesions can be visualized by wrapping the penis with gauze soaked with 5% acetic acid for 5 minutes. Using a ten X hand lens or colposcope, warts appear as tiny white papules. A shiny white appearance of the skin represents foci of epithelial hyperplasia (subclinical infection). Not highly specific, low positive predictive value.

Diagnostic Procedures

  • Biopsy with highly specialized identification techniques (not clinically useful). HPV DNA detection is done by PCRon biopsy tissue.
  • Colposcopy, antroscopy, anoscopy, Pap smear
  • Urethroscopy may be required to visualize intraurethral lesions

Treatment (Medical Therapy)

Appropriate Health Care


General Measures

  • May resolve on their own
  • Treatment determined by location and size of warts
  • Small warts may be treated with topical applications
  • Cryotherapy
  • Change therapy if no improvement after 3 treatments, no complete clearance after 6 treatments, or therapy exceeding manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Appropriate screening and counseling of partners

Surgical Measures

  • Larger warts require laser treatment or electrocoagula-tion
  • Surgical excision for large warts
  • Intraurethral, external (penile and perianal), anal and oral lesions can be treated with fulgurating C02 laser. Oral or external penile/perianal lesions can also be treated with electrocautery or surgery.


No restrictions


No special diet

Patient Education

  • Explain preventive measures and chronic nature of the infection
  • Numerous pamphlets on HPV, STD prevention, condom use
  • Emphasize need for women to get regular Pap smears

Medications (Drugs, Medicines)

Drug(s) of Choice

  • Imiquimod (Aldara) 5% cream applied overnight 3times weekly until warts clear for up to 16 weeks
  • Cryotherapy- liquid nitrogen is applied to warts in 5-10 second bursts. Usually requires 2-3 weekly sessions.
  • Podophyllin in tincture of Benzoin. Apply directly to warts. Leave on for 1-4 hours, then wash off. Repeat treatment every 7 days until gone (in office procedure) OR
  • Podofilox (Condylox) — for external warts. Apply to external warts every 12 hours (allowing to dry) for 3 consecutive days. May repeat after 4 days (home application).
  • Trichloroacetic acid — 25-85%. Apply only to warts. Use powder/talc to remove unreacted acid. Repeat in office at weekly intervals.
  • Topical cidofovir gel — undergoing trials; applied once daily for 5 days every other week for maximum of 6 cycles
  • Intralesional interieron has been shown to be effective in refractory cases and should be reserved for such cases


  • Podophyllin — do not use during pregnancy or on oral, cervical, urethral or perianal warts. Can use on small number of vaginal warts with careful drying after application.
  • Cryotherapy — cryoglobulinemia


  • Podophyllin — to minimize local and systemic reactions, wash treated areas 1 -4 hours after application and use ointments to protect surrounding skin from contact with podophyllin
  • Cryotherapy — none
  • Electrocautery — don’t use in patient with pacemaker

Significant possible interactions: N/A

Alternative Drugs

  • External (penile and perianal)
    • Podophyllin
    • Podofilox (Condylox) self-treatment
    • Intralesional interieron
    • Small study of topical BCG use for penile lesions
  • Urethral meatus
    • Podophyllin
    • Topical fluorouracil
  • Anal
    • Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) — apply weekly
    • Topical fluorouracil
  • Oral
    • Trichloroacetic acid is ideal for isolated lesions in pregnant women
    • Oral cimetidine 30-40 mg/kg divided tid for 3 months in children with genital and perigenital condyloma. Used as a primary and adjunctive therapy.

Patient Monitoring

  • Every 2 weeks for treatment until clear
  • Pap test every 1 year for indefinite period
  • Biopsy for persistent warts
  • Monitor sex partners
  • Treatment does not decrease infectivity

Prevention / Avoidance

  • Use of condoms by male sexual partners of individuals who have been treated for HPV infection
  • Use of condoms by infected men (preventive effects not adequately evaluated; 40% of infected men have scrotal warts)
  • Abstinence by women until treatment completed
  • Circumcision may prevent recurrence in some men
  • HPV vaccine — phase II trial in progress, appears encouraging

Possible Complications

  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Malignant change: Progression to cancer rarely, if ever occurs
  • Male urethral obstruction
  • The prevalence of high grade dysplasia (HGD) and cancer in anal canal is higher in HIV-positive than in HIV-negative patients, probably because of HPV activity

Expected Course / Prognosis

  • Warts clear with treatment or spontaneous regression
  • Recurrences: Frequent and may necessitate repeated treatment
  • Some studies identified 3 independent risk factors for condyloma relapse: Positive HIV, male sex, and Langerhans’ cells — LCs/mm anal tissue (15 vs. 30)
  • Without treatment: May remain stable, worsen, or resolve completely
  • Asymptomatic infection persists indefinitely


Associated Conditions

  • 90% of cervical cancer contains evidence of HPV infection
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • AIDS
  • Chlamydia
  • Other sexually transmitted disease

Age-Related Factors

Young adults, infants and children

Pediatric: Consider sexual abuse if seen in children;

although can acquire by other means (eg, transfer from wart on child’s hand)

Geriatric: N/A


  • Venereal warts are increasing in an ever younger population. A recent study of 487 college women showed an infection rate of 48%.
  • Increased size and number in immunocompromised states


  • Warts often grow larger in pregnancy and regress spontaneously after delivery. Use cryotherapy.
  • Virus does not cross the placenta. Treatment during pregnancy is somewhat controversial. C-section is not indicated.
  • HPV can be transmitted to infant at time of delivery and cause laryngeal papillomas, a rare and life threatening condition


  • Genital warts
  • Venereal warts
  • Papilloma acuminatum

International Classification of Diseases

078.11 Condyloma acuminata

See Also

Abnormal Pap smear

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