warts need to be treated. They generally go away on
their own within months or years. This may be
because, with time, your
immune system is able to destroy the
human papillomavirus that causes warts.
You may decide to treat a wart if it is:
- Growing or spreading to other parts of your body or to
The goal of wart treatment is to destroy or remove the wart
without creating scar tissue, which can be more painful than the wart itself.
How a wart is treated depends on the type of wart, its location, and its
symptoms. Also important is your willingness to follow a weeks- or months-long
course of treatment.
Many people first treat warts themselves by
using a nonprescription product such as salicylic acid or nonprescription
cryotherapy, which freezes the wart. Cryotherapy can
also be done in your doctor's office.
Wart treatment is not always
successful. Even after a wart shrinks or disappears, warts may return or spread
to other parts of the body. This is because most treatments only destroy the
wart and do not kill the virus that causes the wart.
Warts: Should I Treat Warts?
Many people do not treat warts
unless they are unsightly or painful. If you choose to treat your wart, home
treatment is usually the first treatment tried. It includes:
Salicylic acid, a nonprescription
medicine that softens the skin layers that form a wart so that they can be
rubbed off. It is available as a paint, cream, plaster, tape, or patch that you
put on the wart. Salicylic acid may take weeks to months to cure a wart.
Salicylic acid formulas include Compound W and Occlusal.
Tape occlusion (duct tape). This treatment uses tape to cover the wart for a
period of time.
- Nonprescription cryotherapy. Although cryotherapy
can be performed in your doctor's office, a type of this treatment for common
warts on the hands and feet can be done at home. You spray a combination of two
chemicals into a foam applicator and then hold the applicator to the wart for a
few seconds. This treatment should not be used for children younger than 4 or
by pregnant or breast-feeding women.
If you are uncertain that a skin growth is a wart, or if
peripheral arterial disease, or other major illnesses
that may affect your treatment, it is best to see a doctor.
Treatment by your doctor
often used if home treatment is not successful. This procedure uses a very cold
liquid to freeze a wart. Cryotherapy poses little risk of scarring, although it
can be painful.
Less commonly used treatment by your doctor
Retinoid cream (Retin-A, Avita), which
is a prescription medicine that you apply to the wart at home. It disrupts the
wart's skin cell growth.
Cantharidin (Cantharone, Cantharone
Plus), which causes the skin under the wart to blister, lifting the wart off of
the skin. This medicine is injected into the wart at your doctor's
- Bichloracetic acid (BCA),
which kills warts by destroying the proteins in the cells. It is useful for
warts on the palms and the soles of the feet. BCA also can destroy normal
cells, which is why careful application is needed. A doctor applies BCA once a
- Immunotherapy, which triggers your
immune system to destroy the virus causing the wart.
Because some of the substances used for immunotherapy are expensive, dangerous,
or require specialized handling, such treatment is usually considered only
after other methods have failed. Immunotherapy options include
contact sensitizers (such as squaric acid dibutyl
ester or SADBE),
imiquimod (Aldara), and interferon. Interferon is an
experimental treatment and is used only for severe and treatment-resistant
warts. Discuss the benefits and side effects of interferon treatment with your