Anal warts (also called “condyloma acuminata”) are a condition that affects the area around and inside the anus. They may also affect the skin of the genital area. They first appear as tiny spots or growths, perhaps as small as the head of a pin, and may grow quite large and cover the entire anal area. They usually appear as a flesh or brownish color. Usually, they do not cause pain or discomfort and patients may be unaware that the warts are present. Some patients will experience symptoms such as itching, bleeding, mucus discharge and/or a feeling of a lump or mass in the anal area.
Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is transmitted from person to person by direct contact. HPV is considered to be the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD). You may be upset when you are given this diagnosis and it is important to note that anal intercourse is not necessary to develop anal condylomata. Any contact exposure to the anal area (hand contact, secretions from a sexual partner) can result in HPV infection. Exposure to the virus could have occurred many years ago or from prior sexual partners, but you may have just recently developed the actual warts.
Although potentially sensitive and difficult to talk about, your doctor may inquire as to the presence or absence of risk factors to include a history of anal intercourse, a positive HIV test or a chronically weakened immune system (medications for organ transplant patients, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc).
Physical examination should focus primarily on the anorectal examination and evaluation of the perineum (pelvic region) that includes the penile or vaginal area to look for warts. Digital rectal examination should be performed to rule out any mass
The safest way to protect yourself from getting exposed to HPV or any other STD, is to use safe sex techniques. Abstain from sexual contact with individuals who have anal (or genital) warts. Since many individuals may be unaware that they suffer from this condition, sexual abstinence, condom protection or limiting sexual contact to a single partner will reduce the contagious virus that causes warts. However, using condoms whenever having any kind of intercourse may reduce, but not completely eliminate, the risk of HPV infection, as HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact and can live in areas not covered by a condom.