Warts are rough, bumpy growths that can appear anywhere on the skin surface. Anyone can get warts, but most commonly, children and teens are affected.
How did I (or my child) get warts?
Warts are caused by a virus (human papillomavirus, or HPV). There are several different strains of HPV resulting in different types of warts, including common warts, genital warts, flat warts and plantar warts. You might be more susceptible to a virus that causes warts when you have a cut or scrape on your skin.
Warts can spread from person to person. You can get warts from touching a wart on someone’s body. Some people get a wart after touching something that another person’s wart touched, such as a towel. It often takes a few months for warts to grow large enough to see.
Do warts need to be treated?
While warts are generally harmless, treatment is recommended if they are uncomfortable, unsightly or numerous. As warts can be contagious, treatment is also recommended to prevent spread from person to person.
In time your body can fight off the virus causing your warts, but this can be a long, slow process. Treatment can result in much faster resolution of warts.
Is there anything I can do at home?
There are over the counter treatments including topical acid creams and bandages. There are also ‘freeze away’ or ‘freeze off’ kits. These options might be effective for smaller warts, however, we recommend treatment by a Dermatologist if warts are persistent, enlarging or spreading.
How are warts treated in the office?
CRYOTHERAPY – This is perhaps the most effective and most widely used method for wart treatment. Cryotherapy is safe with minimal risk of adverse effects aside from temporary discomfort.
When liquid nitrogen is applied to the skin there is a burning sensation during freezing and while the site thaws. A blister will form within a few hours of liquid nitrogen application. Within a few days the blister will peel away, taking the wart with it. In most cases, there is little to no discomfort after the initial freezing procedure. A Band-Aid may be applied to the treatment site, but is not required. Normal activities can be resumed after treatment. Sometimes one treatment is all that is needed, however, if the warts are large or more numerous, repeated treatments may be necessary.
CANTHARIDIN (also known as beetlejuice) – This is a blistering agent in the form of a liquid that can be applied to each individual wart. The advantage of cantharidin is that there is no pain at all when it is applied in the office. Cantharidin needs to be washed off a few hours after application, so the Dermatologist will provide specific instructions to care for the treated area. There will be some local inflammation, possibly soreness and crusting in the few days after application. Cantharidin treatment can be very effective but, like cryotherpy, might require more than one treatment session.
CANDIDA ANTIGEN – For resistant warts, your dermatologist might recommend injection of candida antigen. During this procedure, the doctor will inject a small amount of this yeast into the largest of your warts, and possibly into others. It is not necessary to inject every single wart. The idea is that your immune system will fight the yeast (candida) antigen, and this inflammatory reaction will help your immune system recognize and fight the wart virus as well. Usually this treatment is performed in a series of three treatment sessions, usually about 3 weeks apart.
Regardless of the treatment modality chosen, do not hesitate to contact your Dermatologist with any questions or concerns after treatment.
TOPICAL TREATMENT FOR WARTS – In addition to the procedures used to eliminate warts, topical creams and gels might also be used. These agents are often complementary to one of the destructive procedures. Think of these like ‘homework’ to help ensure clearance of your warts as quickly as possible. Topical treatments might include imiquimod cream (Aldara), tazarotene cream or gel (Tazorac), salicylic acid preparations, or topical chemotherapy medications. Consistent application of these topical medicines can sometimes help warts clear more quickly.