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Common Warts Overview

Treating Common Warts

If you've ever had warts, there's a good likelihood that you've struggled to get rid of them. There is no foolproof method for removing them, and it's hard to know what method will work in a particular situation. Fortunately, you have a number of options.

Most people start a treatment regimen with over-the-counter products. A patch or solution with 17 percent salicylic acid works to gradually peel away infected skin. It usually takes weeks of daily use for these products to get rid of a wart. Increase your chances of success by first soaking your wart in warm water. You can also use a nail file or pumice stone to file away dead skin (but don't use the file or stone anywhere else!). Use caution with over-the-counter treatments because they can irritate the healthy skin surrounding common warts [source: Mayo Clinic]. Some people swear by the duct tape cure. If you're going this route, ensure that the duct tape covers the wart at all times. Once a week, remove the tape, soak the wart in warm water, and then rub it with an emery board or pumice stone before applying a new piece of duct tape.

If you aren't successful treating your common warts at home, it might be time to seek professional help. Your doctor may prescribe salicylic acid in a solution much stronger than the over-the-counter formula. If that fails, cryotherapy or liquid nitrogen treatment (freezing the warts) is the next option. These treatments are usually successful at removing the warts after three or four sessions. However, some people find them uncomfortable. Your doctor may opt to paint your skin with a blister-forming compound called Cantharidin and then cover it with a bandage. The resulting blister will lift the wart off the skin, but the blister can be painful [source: Mayo Clinic].

For stubborn warts, your doctor might try an alternative to the usual common wart treatments. Electrosurgery, or burning off warts with an electric needle, is one option. Warts can be removed with lasers, too, but this kind of procedure is expensive and may leave a scar. Bleomycin, an antibiotic used to treat cancer, can be injected into tough-to-cure warts. The medication kills the virus after a series of injections [source: Bacelieri]. Another treatment for very tough cases is an immunotherapy gel or cream called Imiquimod. When Imiquimod is applied to a wart, it uses the body's natural rejection mechanisms to fight off the virus. Retinoids, or vitamin A creams, are another last-resort solution for persistent warts. A retinoid can be prescribed as a cream or given orally.

For more information about getting, preventing and treating warts, refer to the resources on the next page.