How are warts managed or treated?

Warts often go away on their own after your immune system fights off the virus. Because warts can spread, cause pain and be unsightly, your doctor may recommend treatment. Options include:

  • At-home wart removal: Over-the-counter (OTC) wart removal medications, such as Compound W®, contain salicylic acid. This chemical dissolves warts one layer at a time. These products come in liquid, gel and patch form. You may need to apply the medication every day for several months to get rid of the wart completely.
  • Freezing: During a procedure called cryotherapy, your doctor applies liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart. After freezing, a blister forms. Eventually, the blister and wart peel off. You may need several treatments.
  • Immunotherapy: For stubborn warts that don’t respond to traditional treatments, immunotherapy helps your immune system fight the virus. This process involves a topical chemical, such as diphencyprone (DCP). DCP causes a mild allergic reaction that makes the wart go away.
  • Laser treatment: Your doctor uses laser light to heat and destroy tiny blood vessels inside the wart. The process cuts off blood supply, killing the wart.
  • Topical medicine: Your doctor may apply a liquid mixture containing the chemical cantharidin. A blister forms under the wart and cuts off its blood supply. You must return to your doctor’s office in about a week to have the dead wart removed.

What are the complications of warts?

Most warts go away without any significant problems. Sometimes warts cause issues, such as:

  • Cancer: HPV and genital warts are linked to several different cancers, including anal cancer, cervical cancer and throat (oropharyngeal) cancer. You can lower your risk of genital warts by getting the HPV vaccine and using condoms.
  • Disfigurement: People with weakened immune systems may develop unappealing clusters of warts on the hands, face and body.
  • Infection: Infections can occur if you pick or cut a wart. Breaks in the skin allow bacteria to enter.
  • Pain: Most warts don’t hurt. But plantar warts can grow inward into the foot and be painful to walk on. You may feel as if there’s a pebble under the skin.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/26/2020.

References

  • American Academy of Dermatology. Warts: Overview. Accessed 5/4/2020.
  • American Academy of Family Physicians. Warts. Accessed 5/4/2020.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Warts. Accessed 5/4/2020.

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