Laser Surgery for Warts: What to Expect

If you have warts, your doctor will probably start with a couple of standard treatments. She’ll give you medicine that makes your warts peel away. Or she may use a super-cold liquid to freeze them off. If these treatments don’t do the job, she might try laser surgery.

A laser is a precise, focused beam of light. DVD and CD players use them to “read” discs. Some lasers send out light powerful enough to cut metal. On the skin, lasers can help with fine lines, wrinkles, freckles, and age spots.

Pulsed-Dye Laser

This is the main type of laser used to remove warts. The light heats up the blood in the tiny vessels inside the wart and destroys the vessels. Without blood, the wart dies and falls off. The laser’s heat may also attack the virus that causes the wart.

The laser may feel like a rubber band snapping against your skin. You won’t feel much pain after the procedure is done. You should heal fully in 2-4 weeks.

Laser treatment can be good for hard-to-reach spots, like genital warts in your urethra, the tube that carries pee from your bladder out of your body. Depending on how many warts you have and where they are, your doctor might give you medicine that numbs the area she’ll treat. Or she might put you to sleep.

Laser surgery can have a couple of downsides:

  • It may leave scars
  • When the laser zaps your skin, it sends up tiny puffs of debris that might spread bacteria, viruses, or fungi

Some doctors think there isn’t enough proof that laser surgery works better than other treatments, like removing it with regular surgery. But laser may do a better job of keeping the warts from coming back.

Other Laser Options

Carbon dioxide laser. This light is as effective as a sharp knife. It might be a good choice if your warts are around your fingernails or toenails and other treatments haven’t worked. First, your doctor will use the laser to cut away the top of the wart. Then she’ll make the light less focused, and it will burn away the rest. The debris it stirs may include the virus that caused your warts. You might have more scarring with this treatment than you’d get from pulsed dye laser.

Continued

Erbium: Yttrium/Aluminum/Garnet laser. The name is a mouthful, but this kind of laser can heat a smaller area with precision, so it doesn’t cause as much scarring. Researchers don't think the puffs of debris from this kind of laser spread the wart virus.

Neodymium: Yttrium/Aluminum/Garnet laser. This laser goes deeper to target the blood vessels in the wart. Doctors who treat children beam this light through a fiber optic cable to zap papillomas, which are wart-like tumors in the mouth or throat. They’re caused by the same virus as warts.

After the Treatment

Doctors don’t know how to kill the virus that causes warts. So they may come back or show up in new places. Genital warts are most likely to return, in part because they appear in moist locations.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on December 21, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Common warts: Treatment and drugs.”

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: “How Lasers Work.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Laser Resurfacing.”

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: “Lasers in dermatology: Four decades of progress.”

British Journal of Dermatology: “British Association of Dermatologists’ guidelines for the management of cutaneous warts 2014.”

Clinical Medicine & Research: “An Armamentarium of Wart Treatments.”

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: “Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis or Laryngeal Papillomatosis.”

American Skin Association: “Warts.”

Familydoctor.org: “Warts.”

Aetna: “Pulsed Dye Laser Treatment.”

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination