STDs Expert Forum
Return of genital warts?
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The STD Forum is intended only for questions and support pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus, genital warts, trichomonas, other vaginal infections, nongonoccal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, molluscum contagiosum, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Return of genital warts?

In March 2007 I was diagnosed with genital warts (HPV). I was prescribed Aldara, which I used for a few weeks until the warts were gone. I have not had a recurrence of warts after this. Recently I have become involved with a new partner and my fear about genital warts has returned. I have looked closely at the area where I had the warts before and I can feel slightly raised areas (nearly invisible to the naked eye). Is it possible that 1) I did not fully clear the warts before and that they are still there is some reduced capacity, 2) the warts have returned in the same place 3 years later 3) this is some sort of scar where the warts were preivously? I had been told by my local health authority that after three years without a recurrence the virus is generally considered cleared from my body and not transmissable to my partner. Is this accurate? Thanks.
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Welcome to our Forum.  The topic of HPV and genital warts is a complex one.  The question you ask is one that we have had a number of times in the past. I will try to provide some facts.  For additional information on this most common of STDs, I would suggest search for other HPV- and wart-related Q&A on this site, as well seeking addition information on sites such as the American Social health Association web-site (disclosure, Dr. Handsfield and I are both on the Board of ASHA).

Once HPV has been successfully treated, the recurrence rate is about 20% with nearly all recurrences occurring within a month or, at the outside, two following resolution.  If you choose to seek the opinion of your doctor, I suggest that you have the same person who initially treated you take a look.  Given your past experience I suspect you are far more  vigilant regarding the possibility of HPV than persons who have not had HPV.  In addition, when closely inspected there are many irregularities and "bumps" which can be confused with recurrent warts.  When warts recur, they do grow so if the bumps you note are not changing, it is most unlikely that they represent HPV infection.  In the vast majority of cases, once warts have resolved, either spontaneously or with therapy if there is no obvious recurrence in 2-3 months following clearance, there is very little chance of recurrence or transmission to sexual partners.  

In addition, this might be a good time to consider the HPV vaccine.  It is highly effective and that you have had warts in the past does not mean that it will not be helpful to you.  Hope this helps.  Take care.  EWH
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H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D.Blank
University of Washington
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Edward W Hook, MDBlank
University of Alabama at Birmingham
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