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Warts and Plantar Warts (cont.)

Prevention

The main way to prevent warts is to avoid contact with the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes warts. If you are exposed to this virus, you may or may not develop warts, depending on how susceptible you are to the virus.

Tips on avoiding the human papillomavirus

  • Avoid touching warts on yourself or others.
  • Do not share razors, towels, socks, or shoes with another person. Someone with no visible warts can still be carrying the virus.
  • Avoid walking barefoot on warm, moist surfaces where the wart virus may be alive. Wear shower shoes when using public showers, locker rooms, or pool areas.
  • Keep your feet dry. If your feet sweat heavily, wear socks that absorb moisture or wick it away from the skin.
  • Avoid irritating the soles of your feet. Warts grow more easily if your skin has been injured or broken in some way.

Tips on preventing warts from spreading

  • Keep warts covered with a bandage or athletic tape.
  • Do not bite your nails or cuticles, as this may spread warts from one finger to another.

Home Treatment

Home treatment is often the first treatment used for warts. When done properly, home treatment is usually less painful than surgical treatment.

Home treatment includes:

  • Salicylic acid, which is currently considered the most desirable wart treatment, based on its effectiveness and safety. It is as effective as or more effective than other treatment, with minimal risk and pain.1 The treatment takes 2 to 3 months. Salicylic acid formulas include Compound W and Occlusal.
  • Tape occlusion (duct tape), in which you use duct tape to cover the wart for a period of time. This treatment takes 1 to 2 months.
  • Nonprescription cryotherapy. Although cryotherapy can be performed in your doctor's office, a type of this treatment for common warts on the hands and feet can be done at home. You spray a combination of two chemicals into a foam applicator and then hold the applicator to the wart for a few seconds. This treatment should not be used for children younger than 4 or by pregnant or breast-feeding women.

If you are uncertain that a skin growth is a wart, or if you have diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or other major illnesses that may affect your treatment, it is best to see a health professional.

Do not use home treatment methods to remove genital warts. For more information, see the topic Genital Warts.

Using salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is available as a paint, cream, plaster, tape, or patch that you put on the wart. Be sure to read and follow the specific instructions that are supplied with the medicine, or follow your doctor's instructions. Salicylic acid may take weeks to months to cure a wart.

For best results:

  • Before applying salicylic acid, soak the wart in water to help loosen and soften skin. This helps the medicine penetrate the skin more easily.
  • Apply salicylic acid to the wart when you go to bed. Cover the area with a bandage or sock and wash off the medicine in the morning.
  • Avoid getting salicylic acid on your unaffected skin. Salicylic acid should touch only the wart.
  • With repeated application, salicylic acid causes the wart tissue to become soft so that it can be rubbed off easily.
  • Remove dead tissue daily or once or twice a week with careful use of a file or pumice stone or as instructed on the medicine package. Dead tissue contains living wart virus, so dispose of the dead skin carefully. The pumice stone or file will also have living wart virus on it. Don't use the file or pumice stone for any other purpose, or you may spread the virus.
  • If treatment causes the area to become too tender, stop using the medicine for 2 to 3 days.

Reducing plantar wart pain

You can reduce plantar wart pain by:

  • Wearing comfortable shoes and socks. Avoid high heels or shoes that increase pressure on your foot.
  • Padding the wart with doughnut-shaped felt or a moleskin patch that can be purchased at drugstores. Place the pad around the plantar wart so that it relieves pressure on the wart. Also, consider placing pads or cushions in your shoes to make walking more comfortable.
  • Using nonprescription medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (such as Advil), or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) to help relieve pain. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome.

What to Think About

Most warts do not need to be treated. They generally go away on their own within months or years. This may be because, with time, your immune system is able to destroy the human papillomavirus that causes warts.

Nonprescription salicylic acid is as effective as or more effective than other treatment, with minimal risk and pain.1

  • A review of research suggests that salicylic acid is a safe treatment that effectively eliminates warts up to 75% of the time. By comparison, placebo or no treatment produced an approximate clearance rate of 50%.2
  • There is currently no proof that cryotherapy is any more effective than salicylic acid.1

Folk remedies, such as rubbing a wart with a bean, may have an effect on a wart. But such treatment may simply coincide with the natural disappearance of a wart.

Never cut or burn off a wart yourself.

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