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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Warts and Plantar Warts - Treatment Overview

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What to think about

It's important to distinguish a plantar wart from a callus before choosing a treatment. Wart treatment applied to a callus may be painful or create scar tissue.

Plantar warts are often hard to treat because they lie beneath the skin. A doctor may need to pare the skin over a wart to help the medicine penetrate the wart.

Before treating your warts, think about:

  • The potential for scarring. Scarring is the most important thing to think about when choosing a wart treatment. Scarring from treatment may be permanent and can be as painful as the wart itself. The bottom of the foot is especially sensitive, a consideration in the case of plantar warts. And scarring changes the way your skin looks. Treatments that are less likely to leave a scar include salicylic acid, cryotherapy, and laser surgery.
  • The cost. Home treatment is often as effective as treatment by a doctor. And it costs less. But home treatment may take longer. Less expensive home treatments include tape occlusion (duct tape) and nonprescription salicylic acid.
  • Your ability to tolerate pain. Quicker but more painful methods include some topical medicines (such as cantharidin) and cryotherapy.
  • Your risk of infection. Treatment can sometimes cause infection. If you have an impaired immune system or a condition such as diabetes or peripheral arterial disease, discuss your increased risk of infection with your doctor. You may need to take special precautions.
  • Your history of recurrent warts. If you have a history of warts that come back, you may want to talk with your doctor about more aggressive treatment methods.
  • The location and number of warts. Large areas covered by warts may be better treated with salicylic acid than with more painful, potentially scarring methods.
  • Your age. Painful treatments, such as cryotherapy, may not be appropriate for young children. If you are older than age 60 and have never had warts, you may want to see a doctor to check any skin growths for skin cancer.
  • The time needed for treatment. Topical (putting medicine on the wart) treatment is often slower than surgical treatment. Some treatment methods, such as immunotherapy applied by a health professional, require repeated office visits. In such cases, the expense and inconvenience may outweigh the benefits of treatment.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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