What are warts and how to treat them?
Warts are non-cancerous skin growths caused by a virus infecting the top layer of the skin. These viruses are called human papilloma virus or HPV, and you can contract one simply by cutting or damaging your skin.
Wart viruses are everywhere, contagious, and can spread by contact with the wart or something that touched the wart.
We can tell whether you have a wart usually by simply an examination. In rare cases, we may need to perform a skin biopsy to be certain. If a biopsy [link to biopsy page] is necessary, we’ll sample the wart while you’re in the office and send it to our pathology department. At the pathology lab, a small piece of the wart will be looked at under a microscope. Many times the wart will reappear after a period of time because the virus particles often persist deeper beyond the wart.
A biopsy is a safe and quick procedure and shouldn’t cause any anxiety.
Treatment for warts
Warts may go away without treatment. This is especially true in children. In adults, warts may not disappear as easily or as quickly as they do in children. Although most warts are harmless, you should see a dermatologist if you can’t get rid of them, if the warts cause symptoms such as pain or interfere with regular activities, or you have many warts.
The treatment used depends on your age and health as well as the type of wart.
Cryotherapy. For common warts in adults and older children, cryotherapy (freezing) is the most common treatment.
Cantharidin. We may treat a wart in the office by "painting" it with cantharidin. Cantharidin is a molecule derived from the blister beetle and causes a blister where it is applied. In a week or so, you can return to the office and the dermatologist will clip away the dead wart.
Electrosurgery and curettage. [link to surgery page] Electrosurgery or burning is also a good treatment for common warts, filiform warts, and foot warts. Curettage involves scraping off (curetting) the wart with a sharp knife or small, spoon-shaped tool. These two procedures often are used together.
Excision. We may cut out the wart.
If the warts are hard-to-treat, we may use one of the following treatments:
Immunotherapy. This treatment uses the patient’s own immune defense system to fight the warts. This treatment is used when the warts remain despite other treatments. One type of immunotherapy involves injecting something the body would recognize as foreign, such as candida antigen, into the warts. In addition, imiquimod cream may also be used to stimulate your immune response, alone or in combination with other therapies.
Chemical destruction. When flat warts appear, there are usually many warts. Because so many warts appear, we may prescribe a chemical method. This therapy involves the use of strong acids.