Warts: Prevention, Treatment and Home Remedies

by Dr. Bolanle Aina - March 29 , 2021


Photo Credit: by Skydive Erick, Shutterstock
Photo Credit: by Skydive Erick, Shutterstock

Warts are often harmless painless growths on the skin caused by a virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). They can grow on different parts of the body. Common warts are found on the hands, fingers or knees. Flat (plane) warts appear on the face or neck, while plantar warts are found on the sole of the feet. Since this condition is caused by a virus, the best way to prevent it is to avoid exposure to the virus in the first instance. Although anyone can contract the virus that causes warts, it is more common in children, teenagers and individuals with weak immune system.

How do I prevent warts?

• Keep feet clean and dry

• Avoid walking barefoot in public places

• Avoid direct contact with warts on other people

• Do not share personal items such as towels, razor, or pumice stones with others

When should I see a doctor for my warts?

You should get your warts checked by the doctor if any of the following applies:

• Painful, itchy, burning, or bleeding.

• Quickly multiplying and spreading.

• Not responding to over-the-counter (OTC) treatments and home remedies.

• On the face or neck.

• In a patient who is immunocompromised or has diabetes.

Treatment:

Most warts may go away by themselves if left alone but it may take a long time to resolve, up to 2 years in children and even longer (5-10 years) in adults. Seeking treatment may enhance quick removal of the wart, although some warts can be much more difficult to treat. Treatment of wart may also be necessary if the wart is painful, bleeds when pressed or rubbed, it makes you feel embarrassed or if you want to avoid its spread to other areas or other members of your family. Diagnosis of warts is done by visual examination by a physician. It is important to confirm the diagnosis with the doctor so as to rule out other possible conditions.

Home remedies:

Apple cider vinegar (ACV): contains 5% acetic acid. Applying ACV on the skin changes the pH of the skin and helps kill the wart virus. Please note it may be irritating to the surrounding tissues. Do not apply on your face or neck. Using a cotton ball soaked in the ACV, apply on the wart and keep in place with a tape or bandaid. Change the cotton ball every day with fresh ACV and do this consistently for 2 weeks.

Duct tape: this a simple yet possibly effective home remedy for wart. Duct tape works by suffocating the virus therefore it is very important to keep the tape intact to ensure effectiveness. Apply a duct tape over the wart for 6 days. On the seventh day, remove the tape, soak the wart in water and remove dead tissue using a pumice stone. Leave the wart uncovered for about 12 hours and repeat the process.

Other treatment options:

Salicylic acid: is used in various concentrations ranging from 17% liquid form to 40% paste form. It is also available as strips that can be applied to the wart for example compound W. Salicylic acid works by sloughing off the skin growth and encouraging growth of new skin cells. You can apply salicylic acid product directly on the wart daily or as directed by the doctor for maximum 12 weeks. Soak your wart in warm water for a few minutes before applying the wart-removal product. In between treatments, file off dead skin cells with the use of a pumice stone

Cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen: some liquid nitrogen products are available over-the-counter in liquid and in spray forms. Cryotherapy can also be done at the doctor’s office. The liquid nitrogen freezes the wart and enables it to be scrapped off the skin. This treatment option can be painful and thus is reserved for adults and older children that can tolerate the pain. Cryotherapy may change the normal color of the skin where it’s applied, making it appear lighter or darker.

Fluorouracil: works by inhibiting the growth of the wart. It is also used in the treatment of pre-cancerous cells on the skin. It can be applied by the patients at home once or twice daily. However, it can cause local irritation, inflammation, ulcerations, contact dermatitis, and photosensitivity. It is often combined with salicylic acid and cryotherapy for resistant warts.

Cantharone: is a clinician-administered treatment for wart that is considered safe and effective. Cantharidin is a toxin extracted from blister beetle. The doctor applies a thin film of 0.7% cantharidin solution on the wart and covers it with a tape. This causes formation of blisters under the wart within a day of application. You will have to return to the clinic after 1 week to scrap off the dead wart. The treatment cycle may be repeated every 3 weeks up to 4 times. The actual application is not painful but pain may occur within 48 hours due to blister formation. Other adverse effects may include swelling and changes in color at the site of application.

Cantharone Plus: is made up of Cantharidin 1% combined with podophyllin 2% and salicylic acid 30%. Cantharone plus was shown to have a much higher efficacy compared to Cantharone. The added salicylic acid and podophyllin aids the breaking down and removal the infected skin cells and tissues. Catharone Plus is a stronger version of Cantharone and is available by prescriptions only.

In conclusion, you may try the watchful waiting approach since most warts may go away by themselves. However you may also try some home remedies or non-prescription options such as compound W. If there are no improvements with self-care options, then definitely get your wart checked by the doctor for a more comprehensive assessment.

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Bio: Dr. Bolanle Aina is a licensed pharmacist currently practicing in the community/retail sector. She also holds a Master of Science degree and Doctor of philosophy degree in Pharmacy from the University of Manitoba. She is passionate about health information and medical communication to promote healthy living and optimal drug therapy.


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DISCLAIMER

While the above article is based on thorough research, we do not claim to offer a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. The article was written for information and educational purposes only. We aim to provide helpful information to our readers, but cannot provide a treatment, diagnosis, or consultation of any sort, and we are in no way indicating that any particular drug is safe or appropriate for you and your individual needs. To receive professional medical attention, you must see a doctor.