Warts (Common Warts) (cont.)
Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Wart facts
- What are common warts?
- What are some types of common warts?
- What is the treatment for common warts?
- Is using over-the-counter wart treatments safe?
- Are wart treatments effective?
- What if wart removal treatments fail?
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
What is the treatment for common warts?
Common warts can be annoying to anyone. It is worth considering that, in normal people, half of all warts, on average, spontaneously go away within about 18 months. The information in this article is about the treatment of common warts. It does not apply to genital or venereal warts. Over-the-counter treatment for common skin warts has long been based upon the use of products containing salicylic acid to destroy the wart. Newer nonprescription wart treatments use aerosols to freeze warts.
These are available as drops, gels, pads, and plasters. They are designed 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 (keratin), which makes up most of both the wart and the thick layer of dead skin that often surmounts it.
Nonprescription freezing methods
Aerosol wart treatments available over the counter use sprays that freeze warts at a temperature of minus 70 F (minus 57 C). This compares with the liquid nitrogen used by most dermatologists, which is considerably colder (minus 320 F or minus 196 C).
It has been reported that warts can be treated by covering them with duct (duck) tape or other nonporous tape, such as electrical tape. This treatment requires that the tape must be left in place all the time and removed only a few hours once per week. The tape must be replaced frequently.
Is using over-the-counter wart treatments safe?
You can't damage yourself with these OTC treatments. If you get salicylic acid on normal skin, it can cause burning or redness but never infection or scarring. All you have to do is stop using it on irritated areas and the skin returns to normal. Still, it's probably better not to use salicylic acid on sensitive areas like the face or groin, where it's likely to make nearby skin raw and uncomfortable.
It generally is recommended that salicylic acid not be used in people with diabetes or in areas where there is poor circulation (because of concern about how normally the skin can heal; however, in practice, salicylic acid is withheld only when there are clear signs of ongoing inflammation of the skin).
Likewise, nonprescription freezing products are also reasonably safe but must be used carefully and only according to package instructions because they work by destroying living tissue.
Viewers share their comments
Find out what women really need.