Warts (Common Warts)

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What is the treatment for warts?

Common warts can be annoying to anyone. It is worth considering that, in normal people, half of all warts, on average, spontaneously go away within about 18 months. The information in this article is about the treatment of common warts. It does not apply to venereal or genital warts. Over-the-counter treatment for common skin warts has long been based upon the use of products containing salicylic acid to destroy the wart. Newer nonprescription wart treatments include carbon dioxide aerosols to freeze warts.

Salicylic-acid preparations

These are available as drops, gels, pads, and plasters. They are designed for application to many types of warts, from tiny ones to great big lumpy ones. Salicylic acid is a keratolytic medication, which means it dissolves the protein (keratin), which makes up most of both the wart and the thick layer of dead skin that often surmounts it.

Nonprescription freezing methods

Aerosol wart treatments that are available over the counter use sprays that freeze warts at a temperature of minus 90 F (minus 57 C). This compares with the liquid nitrogen used by most dermatologists, which is considerably colder (minus 320 F or minus 196 C). The over-the-counter products do not work nearly as well as the colder agents applied by a doctor.

Duct tape

It has been reported that warts can be treated by covering them with duct (duck) tape or other nonporous tape, such as electrical tape. This treatment requires that the tape must be left in place all the time and removed only a few hours once per week. The tape must be replaced frequently. Many are of the opinion that this is no better than a placebo, based on published studies. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 2/22/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Miller, D.J., and R.J. Strauch. "Management of Cutaneous Warts of the Hand." J Hand Surg Am 40.11 Nov. 2015: 2274-276.

Sterling, J.C., S. Handfield-Jones, P.M. Hudson. British Association of Dermatologists. "Guidelines for the management of cutaneous warts." Br J Dermatol. 144.1 Jan. 2001: 4-11.

"Viral Warts." DermNet NZ. Nov. 16, 2011. <http://dermnetnz.org/viral/viral-warts.html>.

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