Medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD
Warts are non-cancerous skin growths that often occur due to the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are common among people of all ages. Some warts may disappear without treatment. But some people others may decide to remove them. Some methods that can help you get rid of warts safely include medication, in-office medical treatments, and some home remedies. Your treatment choice will likely depend on wart type, location, and preference.
How To Identify a Wart
A dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin, nail, and hair conditions) can usually diagnose a wart just by looking at it. However, in rare cases, they may perform a biopsy, which is a test that takes a sample of tissue from the wart to observe it under a microscope.
Warts typically appear as small, rough growths on the skin's surface. Usually, warts will be the same color as your skin tone or a bit darker. You can develop one individual wart or notice them appearing in clusters. Warts can also occur anywhere on your body, including the hands, feet, face, and genitals.
Your dermatologist will also want to identify the exact type of wart you have. This helps them give you appropriate treatment options. Some types of warts include:
Plantar warts: Often develop on the soles of the feet and may cause some tenderness
Common warts: Scaly and rough-feeling warts that typically appear on the hands, the skin around the nails, fingers, feet, and other parts of the body
Flat warts: Usually smaller in size than other warts and can develop on the face, hands, and lower arms
Mosaic warts: Appear as white-colored growths that usually develop on the balls of your feet or under the toes
Filiform warts: Have a thread-like, spiky appearance that often appear on the face or neck
Genital warts: Hard and small nodules that affect the genitals and are usually transmitted through sex
Common Wart Removal Methods
Not all warts require treatment, and many will go away on their own within two years. But if you're interested in getting rid of a wart, it's important to explore different options before starting treatment. Common treatments for wart removal include medications, in-office procedures, and home remedies. It's helpful to consult a dermatologist about your warts, as they can provide tailored advice and recommendations based on your age, symptoms, and the specific type of wart you have.
Salicylic acid is a common over-the-counter (OTC) treatment for wart removal. To use it, apply the solution directly to the wart multiple times daily over many weeks, ensuring it covers the affected area. It may take several weeks of consistent application for successful removal.
Some OTC options for salicylic acid solutions include:
Compound W or Dr. Scholl's: 17% salicylic acid topical liquid
Plantar wart removal: 40% salicylic acid topical solution
Corn removal pads: 40% salicylic acid pads
Zyclara (imiquimod) is a prescription-strength topical treatment that stimulates the immune system to treat genital or anal warts. To use this treatment, apply a thin layer of the cream directly to the wart once a day, three times per week. Your healthcare provider will also give you instructions on how to use it for your warts, so it's important to follow their guidance as directed. Successful removal typically requires several weeks to months of regular application of the cream.
Podophyllin Topical Solution
Podophyllin is a prescription-strength topical treatment that is primarily used to treat genital warts. Apply the solution directly to the wart, ensuring it covers the affected area while avoiding healthy skin. How long you need to apply the solution varies but it may take several weeks to remove warts successfully with regular application. While side effects of this treatment are not common, it is possible to experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea after use.
Cryotherapy is an in-office medical treatment that involves your dermatologist freezing the wart using liquid nitrogen. This treatment causes the wart to blister and eventually fall off. It's worth noting that successful removal may require multiple cryotherapy sessions. There is some risk of temporary discomfort, skin blistering, and mild soreness that resolve within a few days or weeks after a session.
Laser treatment uses focused lights and lasers to destroy the wart tissue. Your dermatologist directs the laser beam on the wart to remove it. Like cryotherapy, multiple sessions of laser treatment may be necessary for complete removal. It's also possible to experience side effects like temporary discomfort, redness, or possible scarring.
Immunotherapy involves injecting a substance called interferon directly into the wart to stimulate the immune system's response against HPV. To get rid of the warts successfully, you may need multiple immunotherapy sessions. But this medical treatment doesn't come without risks. You may experience discomfort at the injection site and potential allergic reactions.
Electrosurgery is a medical treatment that burns the wart through an electrical charge through a needle. This procedure also uses another treatment called curettage, which scrapes off the remaining wart tissue from your skin. This treatment is an appropriate option for common warts, foot warts, or filiform warts.
Duct Tape Occlusion Therapy
Duct tape occlusion therapy is a home remedy that you can use by applying a small piece of duct tape directly onto the wart and leaving the tape on for 4 to 7 days. After removing the tape, clean the area with soap and water, and use an emery board to remove dead skin. Apply a new piece of tape 12 hours later. Repeat this process for four to six weeks.
It's essential to note that home remedies can take several weeks and months to show results. Some risks of this therapy include skin irritation and possible allergic reactions. Although evidence supporting the effectiveness of duct tape therapy is limited, it is considered safe and well-tolerated. But before trying at-home treatments, talk to your healthcare provider to learn if it's right for you.
Apple Cider Vinegar
There is very little research on using apple cider vinegar to remove warts. However, some people speculate that it may work in a similar way as salicylic acid to kill wart tissue. To treat a wart, apply apple cider vinegar directly to the wart using a cotton ball or swab once a day for several days or weeks. Early studies explain that the acidic nature of the vinegar may help break down the wart tissue over time. But before using this remedy, talk to your healthcare provider for approval.
How To Prevent Warts
To minimize the risk of developing warts again, consider the following prevention techniques:
Consult your healthcare provider about what vaccines are available to lower your risk of developing genital warts
Avoid direct contact with warts on other people's skin
Wash your hands thoroughly if you touch another person's wart
Wear flip-flops or waterproof shoes in communal shower areas, locker rooms, and around pools
Use condoms or dental dams during sexual activity to decrease the transmission of genital warts
When To Contact a Healthcare Provider
While warts are not usually harmful, it's important to seek care from a provide if you:
Notice signs of an infection such as pus, discharge, or bleeding from the wart
See changes in the appearance or color of the wart
Want to have your wart professionally removed
Have pain or discomfort that's being caused by your warts
Develop warts on your genitals or anus
A Quick Review
Warts are non-cancerous growths on your skin that may go away on their own. But if they're causing pain or you want to get them removed, contact your provider for treatment. Common treatment options include cryotherapy, salicylic acid, electrosurgery, and laser removal. Some home remedies can work, but before trying them, always talk to your provider or dermatologist to see if the treatment is safe for you.
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