The Word on Warts

NO one really thinks much about warts – until you or someone you know suddenly develops them. Aside from being painful and prone to bleeding, warts can be unsightly; worst of all they are highly contagious, meaning they spread easily both on the person infected and to those around them. If you or someone you know (love) has warts, however, a little knowledge can go a long way towards curing a potentially difficult skin problem.

COMMON warts, i.e., non-genital warts, are caused by several subtypes of HPV, or human papilomavirus. These viruses live in actual warts as well as on objects they touch, such as towels, razors, and even bathroom or shower floors. Most commonly they infect the skin where there has been minor trauma, such as hands, feet, and regularly shaved areas such as beards and legs. Hangnails or ragged cuticles are a favorite place for warts to develop on the digits and around the nails. This is why warts are generally more common in children, as this age group is prone to traumatizing hands and feet during everyday play, as well as being more likely to pick, chew, and bite the skin on their hands and feet. Even at their absolute worst, however, infection with common warts is nearly always self limited; in most cases warts will disappear on their own within 6 months to 2 years.

BUT in the meantime, what to do about the warts that hurt, bleed, continue to get bigger, and continue to spread? The only scientifically proven home treatment for common warts are salicylic acid based topical medications available without a prescription in the form of gels, plasters, or liquid polishes. Various strengths are available with the most effective strength being the one that is applied regularly and for a long enough period of time, generally 4-6 weeks! In addition to being slow to work, these topical agents frequently irritate the skin around the wart being treated thus limiting their effectiveness as most people elect to stop their use long before results are seen . There are countless home remedies that people swear by in my practice, including duct tape, vicks vapor rub, sandpaper, apple cider vinegar and even continually picking at warts. Whatever the case may be, if a wart infection seems to be spreading rapidly, has become tender or sore or has simply been hanging around too long, its time to seek the advice of your dermatologist.

Depending on the age of the patient as well as the number, type, and location of the infection, a treatment plan will be developed to achieve the quickest resolution with the least amount of discomfort possible. The most common treatment methods involve cryotherapy, (freezing) and/or prescription topical medications used at home between appointments. Additionally at Advanced Dermatology and Skin Care we employ a full range of treatment modalities including local injections, immunotherapy, and laser treatment to clear even the most resistant cases. Whatever the treatment plan, consistency and regular follow up at 2-4 week intervals until the infection is cleared should be expected.

Warts can be unsightly, painful, and socially difficult to deal with at any age. If you find yourself facing a persistent or worsening wart infection schedule an appointment at any one of our three locations to get started on the appropriate treatment as soon as possible. In ten years of practice we’ve never seen a wart infection that we couldn’t treat!