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A wart is a rough growth caused by one of a number of strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts are unsightly and can impede normal function. There are a number of over-the-counter and home remedies for wart treatment, but wart removal by a medical professional is most effective.

Causes of Warts

Warts are caused by a number of strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). Although warts are generally harmless, some strains of HPV are associated with other health risks, including genital warts and cervical cancer. However, research has not found any significant link between the HPV strains that cause benign skin warts and those that lead to the development of cancer.

Types of Warts

Warts are identified based on their location and physical characteristics:

  • The common wart is a raised, rough growth that appears on the hands and knees.
  • Flat warts are small and smooth, and tend to show up on the neck, face, hands, and knees in large numbers.
  • Filiform warts are thread-shaped warts that appear on the face around the eyes and lips.
  • Plantar warts affect the feet. They generally appear on surfaces subjected to high pressure (for example, the balls of the feet during walking).
  • Plantar warts may appear with black spots in the center.
  • Mosaic warts are similar to plantar warts, but appear in clusters on the hands and feet.
  • Genital warts are sexually transmitted and affect the genitals and surrounding areas.

Prevention of Warts

Preventing warts completely is difficult. Most adults are infected with one or more strains of HPV during their lifetime. However, because many of these strains never manifest external symptoms, a person may never realize that he or she is infected. The FDA approved an HPV vaccine in 2006 that protects against a number of the most serious HPV strains, including those responsible for cervical cancer and genital warts. Early wart treatment can prevent their spread and make chronic breakouts less likely. Barrier and microbicide methods of birth control can help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted strains. Because smoking has been linked to the development of HPV-induced cancers and is a general depressant on the immune system, quitting smoking may also help prevent warts.

Wart Removal Treatment

There are three main types of wart removal treatment: home remedy, over-the-counter, and treatment by a qualified dermatologist or other physician.

Home Remedies

The home remedy that has been shown to be the most effective is duct tape occlusion therapy, in which the wart is covered with a piece of duct tape for weeks or months at a time. Other methods involve the application of various common household items, from banana peels to vinegar. Tea tree oil, milkweed, dandelion oil, and other natural extracts are also used for removing warts. Some people attempt to cut or burn away warts, but these methods are generally dangerous and should not be used. None of these home remedies for wart removal treatment have been well-studied, and most dermatologists do not recommend them.

Over-the-counter Treatment

Over-the-counter wart removal treatment is another option. There are a number of products available from most pharmacies and supermarkets. Most of these products use salicylic acid either in the form of medicated pads or a concentrated liquid. Home cryosurgery kits for freezing warts are also available. They generally feature liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide. A silver nitrate pencil can also be used for wart removal. In general these products are safe if used correctly, and they are somewhat effective, but they tend to be less effective than wart removal treatment provided by a dermatologist.

Professional Medical Treatment

Wart removal by a qualified dermatologist or other physician is the most effective method for removing stubborn warts. A dermatologist may perform cryosurgery using liquid nitrogen, use blistering agents or salicylic acid, apply a variety of topical or injected chemicals to stimulate the immune system’s response, or burn the wart with a laser. Most warts require repeated wart removal treatment over a period of time for permanent removal regardless of the method being used.

Genital warts are a special case. A strong immune system can eventually clear the body of genital wart infection, but in many cases infection lasts a lifetime, with outbreaks occurring periodically. There are prescription medications that help control genital wart outbreaks. These medications and other treatment options currently available for genital warts do not cure the infection — they simply treat the symptoms of outbreak. Unfortunately, transmission of the virus that causes genital warts is possible even when warts are not present.

Find a Wart Removal Specialist in Your Area

If you are concerned about warts and related conditions, there are trained dermatologists specializing in wart treatment and removal throughout the United States. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a cosmetic dermatologist near you, DocShop's extensive listings can help you find the right specialist to address your needs.

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