All about the treatment of warts

Warts are small growths, usually resembling a thick, hard blister, that can occur anywhere on the body but typically affect the hands and feet. Warts on the bottom of the feet or toes are called plantar warts.

Contrary to folklore, warts are not contracted by handling toads. They are the result of human papilloma virus (HPV), which is spread by skin-to-skin contact among humans. HPV is commonly associated with sexually transmitted disease and genital warts, but this is only one aspect of the virus. There are over 100 types of HPV responsible for a variety of warts, from the common wart to genital warts to filiform (thread-like) warts and flat warts.

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Most warts are harmless, though some varieties, such as plantar warts, can be painful. Even without treatment, warts will eventually go away, but this process can take months or even years, and the infection can recur. For this reason, many people choose to remove warts as soon as possible, either with an at-home treatment or through a procedure their doctor performs.

The Treatment of Warts

Although caused by a virus, warts are rarely treated with oral medication. Instead, they are attacked directly, usually with a compound including salicylic acid, Freon refrigerants or liquid nitrogen. Manual paring or shaving, generally accomplished with a pumice stone or emery board, may also be part of the treatment.

Over-the-counter wart treatments usually contain salicylic acid or Freon refrigerants. Liquid nitrogen must be applied by a doctor, as it can cause greater skin damage if mishandled. Both are proven to remove flat warts, plantar warts and common warts effectively, though it may take up to a dozen treatments. In general, doctor-applied treatments require fewer applications because they contain more potent chemicals. Other factors affecting the length of treatment include the type, size, location and number of warts. Newer wart treatments include laser and infrared therapy, but these are far more expensive and are therefore less popular.

Natural treatments for warts also exist. Home remedies include the topical application of onion, garlic, apple cider vinegar or a banana peel. Nutritional supplements for warts include garlic and vitamin C, both of which are known immune-system boosters.

Treating Genital Warts

Genital warts should not be treated with over-the-counter remedies—these are generally intended only for use on the hands and feet, which are far less sensitive than the genital area. Your doctor can perform genital wart removal or may be able to recommend a chemical genital wart remover that you can safely use at home.

It is important to note that while genital warts can be removed, the virus will remain in the system, so outbreaks can recur at any time. The virus can also be spread at any time, even if no warts are visible. There is no cure for vaginal warts or any type of genital warts.

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