SALT LAKE CITY — While common, having a wart (or several) can be both embarrassing and annoying. To get rid of them, it’s important to know what causes wart growth and the most effective ways to treat them.
What is a wart?
A wart is a small, rough bump on your skin that resembles a cauliflower. It typically develops on a person’s hands or feet, but can also be found in other locations.
Warts are caused by various viral infections, specifically by one of the many types of human papillomavirus. There is no cure for viruses, so warts are very hard to get rid of. They are most common among children and young adults, and are also contagious.
According to WebMD, there are five types of warts:
- Common warts, which grow most often on the hands. “They are rough, shaped like a dome, and gray-brown in color.”
- Plantar warts, which grow on the soles of the feet, are hard patches of skin with dark specks.
- Flat warts are small pink, brown or yellow bumps. They typically grow on the face, arms or legs.
- Filiform warts are found around the mouth and nose. They are skin-colored and have thread-like growths sticking out of them.
- Periungual warts are found under or around the toenails and fingernails. They look like “rough bumps with an uneven surface and border.”
While most warts typically disappear after a few months, they can last for years and can re-occur.
How to get rid of a wart
When removing a wart, it’s important to get the entire wart so it will not come back. This means you need to remove the root of the wart, which can be challenging. Warts grow very deep into your skin, and cutting it out is your only option. When trying to remove a wart, it is very common for it to bleed a lot.
While warts can be annoying, you should know that half of all warts spontaneously go away by themselves. For those that don’t go away, over-the-counter treatments and home remedies are good places to start. Here are a few options:
- Salicylic acid preparations. These are available as drops, gels, pads and plasters. They are for application to all kinds of warts, from tiny ones to great big lumpy ones. Salicylic acid is a keratolytic medication, which means it dissolves the protein that makes up most of the wart.
(Note of caution: It generally is recommended that salicylic acid not be used in people with diabetes or in areas where there is poor circulation.)
- Non-prescription freezing methods. Aerosol wart treatments available over the counter are sprays that freeze warts at a temperature of -70 Fahrenheit. This compares with the liquid nitrogen used by most dermatologists, which is considerably colder (-320 F).
(Note of caution: Nonprescription freezing products must be used carefully and only according to package instructions because they work by destroying living tissue.)
- Duct tape. Warts can also be treated by covering them with duct tape or other nonporous tape, such as electrical tape. This treatment requires that the tape be left in place all the time and removed only a few hours once per week. The tape must be replaced frequently.
If the wart does not go away with the above treatments, it probably will not go away without extra help. A doctor will have to remove it by freezing it or cutting it out. He or she may also prescribe antiviral medications to reduce the chance of regrowth.