Wart Removal: Proper Treatment Essential for Results
Warts can be a painful and embarrassing skin infection that may take time to resolve. Most people want to remove them as soon as possible, but proper removal is important to prevent infection or injury. Thankfully, there are a few options to help you get rid of these benign growths should they appear.
What are Warts?
In thinking about treatment and prevention, it’s important to understand what warts are and what causes them to develop. Warts are actually a skin infection caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) that enters the body through a cut or other break in the skin. The virus causes the benign, rough bump that appears on the skin. These can develop on anyone, but are most common in young children due to frequency of cuts and scrapes, as well as the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems.
Unfortunately, warts are very contagious, spreading through direct contact with a wart someone else has, or even a floor or towel that has been in contact with a wart. Even biting your nails or shaving can result in the virus spreading to different parts of the body, but they frequently appear on the hands (common warts) or sole of the foot (plantar warts). These bumps are easily identified by a physician during a simple examination of the skin.
Treating a Wart
If you choose not to treat, a wart may go away on its own as your immune system battles the virus, but for quicker resolution, they can be treated both at home and by a physician, especially if they are causing any pain or discomfort. The important thing is that when treating a wart, it must be removed completely to avoid the risk of it returning.
- Treating at Home: The best product that fights warts is salicylic acid, which can be found in over-the-counter treatments. The higher percentage present in a medication, the more effective it will be. Before application, soak the area in warm water for 15 – 20 minutes, then file down the wart with an emery board (be sure to break off and throw away the used portion of the board each time). Apply the medication and cover with duct tape. Repeat this treatment nightly until it is completely gone. At-home treatment can require daily attention, sometimes for months, so keep that in mind if choosing this option.
- Medical Treatments: There are a few options when it comes to medical treatments depending on what is recommended by the physician. All options are outpatient.
- Cryotherapy: The wart is frozen by liquid nitrogen, causing a blister to form. When the blister peels off, most or all of the wart does, as well. Most doctors recommend following this treatment with at-home salicylic acid after it heals to ensure the wart is completely removed. Cryotherapy is not recommended for young children as it can be somewhat painful.
- Topical Medication: These are prescribed medications that are much more concentrated than versions you would purchase over-the-counter. Topical medications are applied at home and work by removing the wart layer by layer.
- Lasers, Surgery or Immunotherapy: Plantar warts in particular can be a bit more stubborn. If one is not responding to other treatments, one of these options may be utilized. These are not common treatments as they are expensive, painful, and may result in scarring or other side effects, but only used in extreme, necessary cases.
Preventing Future Warts
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to prevent all warts, but there are simple precautions you can take. If walking into a public locker room, pool, or shower, be sure to always wear flip flops or sandals. Avoid contact with another person’s wart. Should you have a wart, do not scratch, pick at, or shave over it, and be sure to keep clothing and towels that have contacted the wart away from others.