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Types of Warts and Wart Treatment

Warts are common and usually can be easily treated. But not all warts are the same; some are more stubborn to treat than others. Read on for the best wart treatment for every situation.

What Is a Wart?

As the American Skin Association explains, warts are skin growths that can form anywhere on your body and are generally harmless. Types of warts include:

  • Plantar warts — These appear on the bottom of your feet.
  • Common warts — These typically form on your hands or face.
  • Flat warts — These appear on your face or anywhere you shave.
  • Subungual and periungual warts — These form under or around your fingernails and toenails.
  • Genital warts — These can form on your genitals, pubic area, or thighs.

What Causes Warts?

Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus can be spread between people or can spread to other unaffected areas of your own skin to create a new lesion. Common and plantar warts might be spread through skin-to-skin contact, or by touching an object someone with warts has used. Genital warts can be spread during sexual contact.

There’s no cure for HPV, but most warts are harmless and can be removed.

Wart Treatment

When you’re deciding how to treat warts, first consider the area of your body where the wart occurs. Don’t try to treat genital warts at home — instead, consult your doctor. Genital warts are tricky to remove because of their location on more sensitive skin. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) also suggests checking with your doctor before treating warts on your face because of the risk of scarring.

If your child has a common or plantar wart, remember that children’s warts often go away on their own. Treat the wart if it becomes painful, or if your child has a habit of irritating it.

Wart treatment includes:

  • Salicylic acid, the active ingredient in over-the-counter wart remover products, removes warts over time and comes in both liquid and patch form. It works best when applied just after you shower or bathe. For added benefit, cover the wart with duct tape after applying the salicylic acid.
  • Liquid nitrogen, or cryotherapy, is a method for freezing warts off. Over-the-counter wart freezing therapies are available; however, these are generally not as effective as having the procedure done by your doctor. Multiple treatments over several weeks may be needed to effectively treat a wart.
  • Cantharidin is a liquid that causes a wart to blister and then peel away from your skin. It is only available at your doctor’s office.

Any of these methods can be effective for wart removal. If you try one treatment and it doesn’t work, your doctor might suggest another. If repeated attempts don’t eliminate the wart, your doctor may remove it using other techniques, such as surgery or laser treatment.

When Should I Talk to a Doctor About a Wart?

Your family doctor or dermatologist can determine whether a wart can be treated at home or in the doctor’s office. You should always have a doctor to remove genital warts or warts on your face. The AAFP also suggests talking to your doctor if:

  • A wart becomes painful or bleeds (which can happen with plantar warts on the bottom of your feet or if a wart is irritated)
  • Repeated attempts to treat a wart at home don’t work
  • Warts that you successfully treated return

Learn more about how the Department of Dermatology at UPMC can help you treat your warts, or call to schedule an appointment today