How to Get Rid of Warts

Getting rid of warts can be quite a vexing experience, as these small, unsightly growths can be both an aesthetic concern and, in certain cases, a source of discomfort or pain. However, the good news is that there’s a range of options available for addressing warts, whether you prefer do-it-yourself solutions or professional assistance.

How to Get Rid of Warts
How to Get Rid of Warts

Warts, in general, are benign skin growths that tend to vanish naturally over time. Despite this, their presence can be a nuisance, and some warts, especially those on the soles of the feet, can make activities like walking and exercising genuinely painful.

Thus, removing warts can become a pressing priority for many individuals.

In this guide, we will explore the easy ways you can simply get rid of warts and regain your comfort and confidence.

What Do Warts Look Like?

Warts develop in the top layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. Usually, warts have a bumpy and raised texture, though there are exceptions, such as facial warts, which can be relatively smooth and flat.

Also, the centre of a wart may contain small dark dots, which are tiny blood vessels called capillaries that provide blood to the wart.

What Causes Skin Warts?

Warts are a result of skin cells growing at a faster rate than usual due to an infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Among the approximately 150 known strains of HPV, about 10 can lead to various types of cutaneous (skin) warts, which include common warts, plantar warts, and flat warts (refer to “Common types of skin warts” below).

We frequently encounter HPV in our daily lives, such as through handshakes or touching common surfaces like doorknobs. However, it’s important to note that only some individuals end up developing warts, and the reasons for this discrepancy can be somewhat puzzling.

Children and people with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk, as are individuals in specific occupations like meat, fish, and poultry handling. Nevertheless, the most plausible explanation is that certain individuals have a greater susceptibility to warts than others.

It’s worth mentioning that certain strains of HPV are responsible for causing genital and anal warts, which are typically transmitted through sexual contact. Some specific types of HPV can also lead to cellular changes in the cervix and anus, potentially leading to cancer.

However, it’s important to clarify that the HPV strains responsible for skin warts are rarely associated with the development of skin cancer.

Common Types of Warts

There are known to be three common and most-known types of warts. We will explore these types of warts with you and also give you tips about their appearances and where they’re found:

1. Common Warts:

  • Appearance: These warts have a raised, rough surface, and sometimes you’ll see dark specks on them. They are typically light-coloured to grey-brown.
  • Where they’re found: Common warts can show up on various parts of the body, but they’re most common on the hands. Warts that appear under or around the fingernails or toenails can be tricky to treat.

2. Plantar Warts:

  • Appearance: These warts have a rough, spongy surface and are typically grey or brown with dark specks.
  • Where they’re found: Plantar warts are found exclusively on the soles of the feet. When they group, they are often referred to as mosaic warts because they create a mosaic-like pattern.

3. Flat Warts:

  • Appearance: Flat warts are, as the name suggests, flat or slightly raised. They have a smooth texture and are usually pink. They tend to be smaller than other types of warts.
  • Where they’re found: Flat warts are less common than other warts and are often found on the face, hands, and shins. When they do appear, they tend to show up in larger numbers.

Knowing these different types of warts will give you an idea of the kind of wart you are dealing with and how to go about it.

How to Get Rid of Warts

Research shows that roughly 50% of warts disappear naturally within a year, and about 66% vanish within two years. This means you can choose to take a “wait-and-see” approach if you have a new wart. However, some experts suggest getting treatment right away.

This immediate treatment can help reduce the amount of the virus spreading to nearby skin and potentially decrease the chances of the wart coming back. If you’d rather not wait, there are several treatment choices available to you:

At-home Remedies for Getting Rid of Warts

Salicylic acid is a helpful treatment for warts that you can use at home without a prescription. It comes in different concentrations, typically ranging from 17% to 40%. If the wart is on thicker skin, you can use stronger concentrations. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Soak the wart in warm water before applying salicylic acid.
  2. Gently remove the dead, warty skin using an emery board or pumice stone.
  3. Apply the salicylic acid to the wart.
  4. Repeat this process daily or even twice a day.
  5. Salicylic acid is usually not painful, but if you feel any soreness in the wart or the surrounding skin, take a short break from treatment.
  6. Keep in mind that it might take several weeks of treatment to see good results, so don’t stop treatment too soon.
  7. Consider continuing treatment for an extra week or two after the wart disappears to help prevent it from coming back.

Duct tape is another option, which is a low-risk and low-tech approach. Here’s how to use duct tape for wart removal:

  1. You can leave the duct tape on the wart overnight for about a month or until the wart is gone.
  2. Alternatively, you can apply duct tape for five to seven days, then remove it. You may need to repeat this process.
  3. Some studies suggest that silver duct tape works better because it is stickier.
  4. The exact reason why duct tape works isn’t clear, but it may be because it deprives the wart of oxygen, or it could be removing dead skin and viral particles when you remove the tape.
  5. If you choose to use salicylic acid with duct tape, be careful to apply it only on the wart itself and make sure it’s fully dry before applying the tape over it.

Both methods can be effective, but be patient, as it may take some time to completely remove the wart.

In-office Treatments for Getting Rid of Warts:

Freezing (Cryotherapy):

  • Also known as cryotherapy.
  • During this treatment, a healthcare provider applies liquid nitrogen to the wart and a small area around it.
  • The extreme cold (often as low as –321°F) freezes the skin, resulting in pain, redness, and the formation of a blister.
  • Typically, you’ll need three or four treatments, spaced two to three weeks apart. More treatments are unlikely to be beneficial.
  • After the skin has healed, you can use salicylic acid to encourage the removal of more skin layers.
  • Some studies have found that salicylic acid and cryotherapy are equally effective, with cure rates of 50% to 70%. Cryotherapy is especially effective for hand warts.

Other Treatment Options:

  • If standard treatments are ineffective, prescription drugs may be necessary.
  • Imiquimod (Aldara), a topical immunotherapy drug, can be used to treat skin warts. It works by triggering an allergic response and irritation at the wart site.
  • Intralesional immunotherapy involves injecting a skin-test antigen (such as for mumps or Candida) into the wart for those who have shown an immune response to the antigen.
  • Other agents for stubborn warts include chemotherapy drugs like fluorouracil (5-FU) in cream form and bleomycin, which is injected into the wart.
  • These treatments may have side effects, and their effectiveness is not well-established.

Zapping and Cutting (Electrodesiccation and Curettage):

  • In this procedure, performed under local anaesthesia, the clinician dries the wart with an electric needle and scrapes it away using a curette, a scoop-like instrument.
  • This process often leads to scarring (similar to removing the wart with a scalpel).
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage are usually reserved for warts that do not respond to other treatments and are generally avoided on the soles of the feet.
  • Consult your dermatologist if you are unsure about the most suitable wart treatment for your case.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do warts naturally disappear?

Warts typically go away naturally as the body’s immune system fights the viruses responsible for them. In children and teenagers, studies have shown that about half of warts vanish within a year.

However, the time it takes for warts to disappear can vary depending on the type of virus, the wart’s type, and the person’s overall health.

Are warts contagious?

Skin warts are not highly contagious. They can be transmitted from one person to another through direct contact, primarily through breaks in the skin. While it’s theoretically possible to pick up warts from surfaces like locker room floors or showers, it’s uncertain how often this occurs.

It’s important to wash your hands and any items that come into contact with your warts, such as nail files or pumice stones, to prevent spreading warts to other parts of your body.

How is a wart virus different from a bacterial infection?

Wart viruses behave differently from bacterial infections like strep throat, which follow a predictable pattern and can be caught, treated, and completely eradicated. Warts are much less predictable.

The wart virus resides in the skin’s upper layer, and it’s often unclear when or where you contracted it. The virus could have been present for years before causing a wart, and even after the wart disappears, the virus may still be present in the skin.

When to Consult a Healthcare Provider:

  • Some skin cancers may resemble warts initially. If you have a wart that remains relatively unchanged in terms of size, colour, or shape, you may not need to see a healthcare provider.
  • However, if you’re in your 50s and develop new warts or notice any wart that bleeds or grows rapidly, it’s advisable to consult a dermatologist. Be cautious of any unusual changes in your warts in these situations.



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