Warts are benign (non-cancerous) growths of the skin that can occur nearly anywhere on the body.
Warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and usually come from close contact with others that have warts. They can spread from person-to-person but can also multiply and spread on the same person.
There are many subtypes of the HPV virus. The subtypes that typically affect the external skin are not dangerous and do not cause cancer.
Warts most commonly affect the feet, hands, face, and genitalia.
They can be small or large in size, flat, or raised but are usually painless. Some deep warts on the feet can cause pain during walking.
Most people don’t like the way warts look or feel on their skin, and seek out dermatologists to have them removed safely.
There are several ways to remove warts from the skin.
Over-the-counter (OTC) products can be purchased at your pharmacy (costing between $20-$45). These OTC topical acid creams, solutions, and sprays help debulk warts, but they don’t always work.
For more advanced wart removals, an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist is highly recommended.
A dermatologist may prescribe a prescription cream to start. Some of the prescriptions creams utilize salicylic acid, and some try to boost the immune system using imiquimod. These creams are not always effective and work slowly.
The most popular in-office treatment that dermatologists use to eliminate warts is cryotherapy. Cryotherapy or “dry-ice” treatment uses liquid-nitrogen (an icy gas) to induce a frost-bite reaction in the skin to destroy the areas infected by the wart virus. The cryotherapy is applied to the surface using a unique spray device in several cycles. The treatment only takes a few minutes. It does cause a pain and burning sensation transiently, which subsides over a few minutes. Over 7-10 days, the treated area of skin crusts and sloughs off, taking warts with it. One treatment may do the trick, but multiple treatments are not uncommon
A more specialized method only used by dermatologists to treat warts is electrosurgery. Electrosurgery utilizes a laser-like device (an electrocautery) to destroy warts on impact. The electrocautery is applied to the wart-infected skin and effectively burns it at the surface. The procedure is pain-free after the local anesthetic is applied. Healing can take 2-7 days, but the results are excellent. This technique is particularly useful for warts of the face.
Surgery or “cutting the wart out” is not a recommended treatment and rarely employed.