While warts are quite common, the sight of them can be unnerving. They appear on various parts of the body and can manifest in various ways: some are scaly, some are flesh colored, some are hard, some are soft, some are dark, and some are flat. Warts can appear on the hands, the feet, around the eye area, and even on the face. Regardless of the variety, having warts is usually an unpleasant experience. Although they can be stubborn, there are options to help eradicate them.
What Causes Warts?
Warts are caused by a skin infection called human papillomavirus, more commonly known as HPV. HPV is a viral infection affecting the outermost layer of the skin. It is estimated that there are over 150 strains of the HPV virus. Since warts are caused by a viral infection, they can spread easily from one person to another and require a response from our immune system to completely resolve.
At-Home Remedies for Warts
Many warts can be treated using over-the-counter medications. At Vanguard Skin Specialists, we recommend using medications containing salicylic acid, as this ingredient has been proven to be effective towards wart removal.
In an article published by the Harvard School of Medicine, it is recommended patients use products with concentrations of salicylic acid between 17% and 40% (higher concentrations are more effective on areas of the body with thicker skin). The patient should “soak [the wart] for 10 to 15 minutes (you can do this in the shower or bath), file away the dead warty skin with an emery board or pumice stone (make sure you only use these on your warts), and apply the salicylic acid. Do this once or twice a day for 12 weeks. Warts on thick skin, like the bottom of the foot, may respond best to a patch which stays in place for several days.”
Warts are often initially treated in the office, by your provider, with liquid nitrogen, also known as cryosurgery. Liquid nitrogen is a very cold spray (minus 196 degrees Celsius!) which, when applied to the skin in a controlled setting, can cause some discomfort and blistering. By creating symptoms, this method can help stimulate an immune response. Unfortunately, rarely does one treatment session result in eradication of the virus. Most patients require treatment sessions every 3-4 weeks for several months. One important thing to note: treating a wart is like being on a sports team. It takes every player to win a game. To eradicate warts, it is necessary to not only treat them in the office, but also at home with OTC salicylic acid.
Laser Wart Treatment
If you experience persistent warts not responding to at-home treatments and cryosurgery, there are other options offered to patients through Vanguard. Not everyone responds to the same treatment, but one of the most popular options is treatment with a laser.
Terri Nagy, a dermatology physician assistant at Vanguard explains, “Vanguard has a laser using pulsed light to treat persistent warts. It specifically works for warts which some people refer to as ‘seed warts’ due to the presence of tiny black dots at the surface. Those black dots are actually tiny blood vessels, not seeds, located inside the wart. The pulsed light heats up the blood vessels to destroy them. Without a blood supply, the wart will eventually resolve. It is important to note most people require multiple treatments with the laser, as rarely do they resolve with one session. Laser sessions are usually scheduled 3-6 weeks apart.”
Schedule Your Skin Consultation Today
If you are experiencing troublesome warts or are unsure about a lesion on your skin and would like to have it examined by one of our trusted dermatology providers, contact us today at 719-355-1585 or fill out our online appointment request form.