What Are The Best Ways To Treat Warts?

If you’ve ever had a wart, you know how unsightly, painful and downright annoying it can be. You just want it to go away, fast. Unfortunately, getting rid of warts is often a slow process, but it can be done. At Westchester Health, we’ve pooled our most effective treatments, both at-home remedies and those administered by a physician, and we share those with you here.

What causes warts?

Alison F. Stallings, MD, FAAD

Warts are skin growths that are caused by direct contact with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is contagious. There are more than 60 kinds of HPV, some of which cause warts on the fingers, near the fingernails, or on the hands. Certain types of HPV can also cause warts in the genital area.

Three types of warts

  1. Plantar warts: Located on the soles of the feet, this type of wart usually appears as flesh-colored or light brown lumps of skin.
  2. Genital warts: These can appear in the pubic area, on the genitals, in or around the anus, and/or in the vagina. They often appear in clusters of three or four and may grow and spread rapidly. Genital warts are usually not painful although they can cause mild pain, bleeding and itching. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. and certain forms of the virus can cause cervical cancer.
  3. Flat warts: More common in teens and children than in adults, this type of wart generally occurs on the face but can also appear on the legs, especially in females.

Got warts? Try these treatments

In most cases, warts are harmless and will disappear on their own. However, sometimes specific treatment is needed, and more than one type of treatment may be necessary. Also, keep in mind that most methods require multiple applications.

IMPORTANT: While you’re treating your warts, don’t scratch or pick at them. This only makes them worse and can also spread them to other parts of your body.

Effective treatments include:

1. Freezing (Cryotherapy): To freeze a wart, there are several over-the-counter spray products available or you can see a doctor who will use liquid nitrogen. With cryotherapy, a blister forms around the wart and then the dead tissue falls off within 1-2 weeks.

2. Cantharidin: This substance is an extract of a blister beetle that, when applied to the skin, forms a blister around the wart which will eventually lift the wart off the skin. After application, the area needs to be covered with a bandage.

3. Medications: Two widely used prescription medications are bleomycin (which is injected into the wart to kill the virus) and imiquimod (a cream that stimulates your own immune system to fight off the wart virus).

4. Salicylic acid: Whether in the form of a gel, ointment or pad, over-the-counter wart treatments contain salicylic acid as the active ingredient. When applied on a regular basis, this acid gradually dissolves the wart tissue, but the process may take several weeks.

5. Duct tape: As unconventional as it sounds, duct tape can be effective at removing warts, layer by layer, on the hands and fingers over the course of several weeks. For this method: place a small piece of duct tape on your wart and leave it in place for 3-6 days. Remove the tape and gently scrape the wart down with a nail file or pumice stone, leaving it exposed to air for 12 hours. Reapply the duct tape and repeat this process until the wart is gone completely.

6. Minor surgery: When warts can’t be removed by other therapies, surgery may be employed to cut away the wart. The base of the wart is then destroyed using an electric needle or by cryosurgery.

7. Laser surgery: This procedure uses an intense beam of light (laser) to burn and destroy wart tissue.

To reduce your risk of warts:

  • Avoid direct contact with warts.
  • Don’t pick at warts. Picking may spread the virus.
  • Don’t use the same emery board, pumice stone or nail clipper on your warts as you use on your healthy skin and nails.
  • Don’t bite your fingernails. Warts occur more often in skin that has been broken, and chewing the skin around your fingernails opens the door for the virus.
  • Avoid brushing, clipping or shaving areas that have warts. If you must shave in a particular spot with warts, use an electric razor.

Helpful websites

Do you have warts that you’d like to get rid of? Come see us.

If you have a wart and want to know the best way to make it go away, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment to see one of our Westchester Health dermatology specialists. We’ll examine your wart, then recommend a course of treatment that will eradicate it and hopefully prevent it from coming back. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

By Alison F. Stallings, MD, FAAD, a Dermatologist with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners

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