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Warts are non-cancerous growths that appear as rough, raised bumps most often found on the fingers, hands, and feet. They are caused when the human papilloma virus (HPV) infects the top layer of the skin. Warts may be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact or acquired from surfaces or objects that have been in contact with a wart. They are especially contagious when the skin has been cut or damaged, or when the immune system is weakened by another disease. Anyone can get warts and they are especially common in children and teens.
Warts will often resolve on their own with no treatment, especially in children. If they are not painful and are not spreading, observation is an acceptable option. If treatment is chosen, multiple treatments are almost always needed. There are several treatment options employed at our office including:
Cryotherapy: This method destroys wart tissue by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. Cryotherapy is quick, mildly painful, and causes a blister or a sore at the site of treatment. The treatment often needs to be repeated several times consistently until the wart is gone.
Laser: This method also destroys wart tissue, as well as affecting blood supply to the wart through a quick heat pulse. Lasers are more aggressive than cryotherapy and will often cause a blackened area at the site of treatment. The area may be sore for a day or two.
Cantharadin: Cantharidin is a liquid applied in the clinic, which will cause a blister to form under the wart. This method is painless when applied and often used in children or if there are many warts in one area.
Topical Preparations: There are several creams that may be used from the pharmacy that are also effective in destroying wart tissue. These include salicylic acid, alone, or in combination with other destructive compounds. These are prescribed or purchased by the patient and applied nightly until the wart is gone.
Several treatment methods are available to help the patient’s own immune system fight the wart virus. Options include:
Candida Antigen: This method requires the injection of the wart with a protein from a common yeast. The immune system is able to recognize the protein and in its response, may treat the wart as well.
Squaric Acid: This method works through causing a mild allergic reaction at the site of the wart. It requires a series of painless treatments in which a chemical is applied, first to an unaffected site in order for the immune system to become familiar with it, then applied to the warts monthly until they resolve.
Imiquimod: This prescription cream is applied daily, but instead of destroying wart tissue, it enhances the immune system’s response to the virus.