With their ugly appearance and persistent nature, warts can be quite bothersome. It can be an embarrassing topic to talk about and even more embarrassing to live with. While they may not be harmful, they can still be unattractive, and some types can even cause discomfort during physical activity. However, there are treatments available that can help to accelerate their disappearance.
Thankfully, there are effective treatment options available that are minimally invasive. It can be difficult to discuss warts, but they are a common problem many people experience at some point in their lives. These growths are caused by the human papillomavirus and can be found in various locations on the body. They typically have a rough surface and can range in color from light to dark. While home remedies may help, it’s important to be cautious with sensitive areas like the genitals. If you’re struggling with warts, a dermatology specialist can provide effective treatment options to help you get rid of them for good.
What are Warts?
Warts are small, benign growths that can appear on the skin. They are caused by a viral infection, specifically the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts can occur on any body part, including the hands, feet, face, and genitals. They typically have a rough texture and can vary in size, shape, and color. Warts are generally harmless, but they can be unsightly, and some types can cause discomfort or pain, especially if they appear on the feet. While some warts may disappear on their own, others may require treatment to help them go away more quickly.
Anyone can get warts, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. However, some people may be more prone to developing warts than others. For example, people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or those who have had an organ transplant, may be more susceptible to getting warts. Children and teenagers are also more likely to get warts than adults, perhaps because their immune systems are still developing.
Additionally, certain activities or environments can increase the risk of getting warts, such as walking barefoot in public places like locker rooms or swimming pools. Genetics also play a role in determining who is more likely to get warts.
Not all warts look the same – there are different types of warts, such as:
Are Warts Contagious?
Yes, warts are contagious and can spread from person to person through direct or indirect contact. Warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which can enter the body through small cuts or breaks in the skin. It can thrive in warm, moist environments like public showers and swimming pools.
Touching a wart on someone else’s body, or even on your own body, can spread the virus to other areas of the skin. Warts can also be spread indirectly by sharing towels, shoes, or other personal items with someone with a wart. It’s important to take precautions to avoid spreading warts, such as avoiding touching warts on yourself or others, wearing protective footwear in public showers or locker rooms, and keeping personal items like towels and shoes separate from others.
How to Deal with Warts
Some doctors say that the best treatment for warts is no treatment at all. Also called “watchful waiting,” this method suggests you wait as warts will go away on their own. People develop an immune response that causes warts to go away by themselves. Twenty percent of warts disappear within six months, while two-thirds are gone within two years.
But if it doesn’t disappear, is unsightly or uncomfortable, you can try self-treatment or seek the help of a doctor.
Here are some options you can try to deal with unsightly warts:
When it comes to treating warts, over-the-counter remedies are often the way to go. Salicylic acid is a popular choice because it is the only topical treatment that has been shown to be more effective than a placebo in treating warts. It is inexpensive, has minimal side effects, and comes in various forms, such as liquids, gels, and patches. The concentration of salicylic acid can range from 17% to 40%, with stronger concentrations recommended for warts on thicker skin.
To use salicylic acid, soak the affected area for 10-15 minutes, file away dead skin with an emery board or pumice stone, and apply the treatment once or twice daily for up to 12 weeks. If the wart is on thicker skin, like the sole of the foot, a patch may be more effective. Continuing treatment for a week or two after the wart disappears is also recommended to prevent a recurrence.
Over-the-counter products like Compound W, Duofilm, and Occlusal HP all contain salicylic acid and can be used to treat warts. To use these products, soak the wart in water for five minutes, then gently rub off dead skin cells before applying the salicylic acid treatment. It is important not to reuse the same washcloth or pumice stone to prevent reinfection. After applying the treatment, cover the area with duct tape to help it adhere to and penetrate the skin.
Freezing or cryotherapy
Freezing, also known as cryotherapy, is a treatment that involves applying liquid nitrogen to the wart and the surrounding skin. The extremely low temperature burns the wart, causing pain, redness, and a blister. Typically, three or four treatments, spaced two to three weeks apart, are required to get rid of the wart. After the skin has healed, salicylic acid can be applied to encourage the shedding of more skin.
Studies have shown that cryotherapy and salicylic acid have similar cure rates of 50% to 70%, but cryotherapy is particularly effective for hand warts. Over-the-counter freezing sprays are available for home treatment, but they may not be as effective as in-office treatments and can be more painful. Freezing treatments can be used to freeze and remove warts.
The use of duct tape in treating warts is a low-risk and low-tech method that has yielded mixed results. While some anecdotal evidence suggests that it may be effective, studies have produced varying outcomes. In one study, duct tape patches were worn over warts for six days, removed, soaked, and filed, left uncovered overnight, and reapplied for another six days. This regimen was followed for two months or until the wart disappeared. Duct tape was found to be about 45% more effective than cryotherapy in this study. However, two other studies using clear duct tape found no benefit.
Therefore, if you plan to try duct tape, using the standard silver type makes sense. The mechanism by which duct tape works is unclear, but it may deprive the wart of oxygen or remove dead skin and viral particles along with the tape. Some people use salicylic acid before applying duct tape to the wart. A small study comparing duct tape to cryotherapy found that participants using duct tape achieved wart removal after about two months and reported fewer negative side effects than those treated with cryotherapy.
Tea tree essential oil
Tea tree oil, also known as Melaleuca alternifolia, possesses antimicrobial and exfoliating properties, making it a popular choice for treating warts. While there is limited evidence supporting its effectiveness, a small study showed that using topical treatments with tea tree oil reduced warts in a young patient within 12 days. Tea tree oil’s antiviral and antimicrobial properties activate the immune system’s white blood cells, making it a potential solution for getting rid of warts.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a popular natural remedy for warts that can be found on many internet sites. The method involves soaking a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and applying it to the affected skin before bed each night. Covering the wart with a bandage can help keep the vinegar in place and protect the surrounding skin.
While apple cider vinegar is a natural treatment, it can still cause discomfort and pain when applied to the skin due to its acidic nature. It’s important to avoid using undiluted apple cider vinegar on the face as it may be too strong.
ACV contains acetic acid, which is known to kill certain types of bacteria and viruses. It slowly destroys the infected skin, causing warts to fall off, similar to how salicylic acid works. You can try using products containing ACV to treat warts. Simply take a small piece of cotton, dip it in ACV, apply it as a compress, secure it with a bandage, and leave it on overnight. Repeat this process daily until warts disappear.
Garlic is also a potential treatment option for warts. To use it topically, mix fresh garlic with a pinch of baking soda to make a paste. Apply the paste to the wart and cover it with a clean bandage, replacing it daily for a week. Garlic is known for its antiseptic, antibiotic, anti-allergic, and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help destroy harmful pathogens and treat warts. While there is some anecdotal evidence that garlic ointments may be effective in reducing the incidence of warts, more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness.
Aloe vera may have benefits for treating warts due to its high content of malic acid. Aloe vera’s antibacterial and antibiotic properties may also provide relief if your warts are itchy or painful. To use aloe vera, simply remove a leaf from the plant, apply the gel directly to the wart, and repeat this process daily.
Do you like to eat bananas? Don’t throw the peel immediately – you may be able to use them to help with your warts. The potassium in the banana peel is believed to fight against HPV due to its antimicrobial and antiviral properties. To use it, rub the inside of a banana peel on the wart and repeat the process daily for faster results. While discarding the banana peel after eating the fruit is common, it’s worth exploring its potential benefits. Although no scientific evidence supports its effectiveness, some people believe that banana peel can be used to treat warts.
Onion juice can be used to treat warts due to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that can prevent the growth of viruses and bacteria. To use onion juice for wart removal, start by peeling the outer skin of a small onion, then pound it using a mortar and pestle. Apply the juice to the wart and repeat regularly.
Baking soda and castor oil
Baking soda and castor oil can be combined to make a powerful remedy for warts. Baking soda’s anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties can help reduce pain and inflammation, while castor oil can alleviate any burning sensation. To use this remedy, mix one tablespoon of baking soda with one to two drops of castor oil to make a paste. Apply it on the affected area daily until the wart disappears.
Prescription topical treatments
If standard therapies fail to work, other agents may be used to treat warts. Prescription drugs such as imiquimod (Aldara) which is a topical immunotherapy drug typically used for genital warts, can also be effective in treating skin warts. Imiquimod works by causing an allergic response and irritation at the wart site.
Intralesional immunotherapy is another approach that involves injecting a skin-test antigen like Candida or mumps into the wart of individuals who have displayed an immune response to the antigen. Chemotherapy drugs like fluorouracil (5-FU), which can be applied as a cream, and bleomycin which is injected into the wart, are other options for treating persistent warts. However, these treatments have side effects, and their efficacy is not well-documented.
Zapping and cutting
If other treatments fail to work, zapping and cutting may be your last resort. The technical name for this treatment is electrodesiccation (or cautery) and curettage. The procedure involves using an electric needle to dry out the wart and then removing it with a curette while under local anesthesia. However, this method can leave scarring. This method is usually reserved for warts that do not respond to other treatments, and it must be avoided on the soles of the feet.
Important note: When it comes to genital warts, avoid using topical treatments. Genital skin is delicate and can be subject to injury, so talk to your doctor about treatment options, including taking antiviral medications.
How to Prevent Warts
While there’s no surefire way to prevent yourself from getting warts, there are ways to lessen your risk of developing one:
Boost your immune system
Since warts are caused by a virus, having a weakened immune system may increase the risk of developing warts. Strengthening your immune system may help to prevent warts from appearing. Here are some ways to boost your immune system:
- Incorporate fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet for better nutrition.
- Maintain good cardiovascular health by exercising regularly, such as walking, taking an aerobics class, or cycling.
- Get enough sleep to support immune function and recovery.
By taking care of your body, you not only promote your overall health but also reduce the likelihood of developing warts.
Practice good hygiene
Warts are caused by a virus that thrives in warm, moist environments. Keep your hands and feet clean and dry, and avoid sharing personal items such as towels or shoes with others who have warts.
Wear shoes in public places
Warts can be spread by direct contact with contaminated surfaces, such as communal showers, swimming pool decks, and gym locker rooms. Wear shoes or sandals in these areas to reduce your risk of infection.
Avoid touching warts
If you come into contact with a wart, do not touch it. This includes your own warts as well as those of others. Warts are highly contagious; touching them can spread the virus to other parts of your body.
If you are at high risk for warts, such as children or people with weakened immune systems, talk to your healthcare provider about getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the virus that causes most warts.
Eliminating warts can prevent potential social discomfort and decrease the possibility of transmitting warts to others or other areas of your body. If you have any skin concerns, including warts, it’s best to schedule a visit with a dermatologist.