Warts are benign, non-cancerous, skin growths. Warts are often skin colored and feel rough but can be dark, flat and smooth. Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). Warts can be spread by skin-to-skin contact with a wart or through an injury to the skin. They are typically diagnosed visually by your dermatologist, however, occasionally they may require a biopsy for diagnosis. So what can be done to get rid of these warts?
Many warts will go away on their own within 2 years. However, due to the contagious nature of warts treatment is typically recommended. The most common treatment for warts is cryotherapy, freezing the wart using liquid nitrogen. This treatment works well but may take multiple treatments for the wart to completely resolve. This method is typically avoided in young children due to some discomfort with treatment. This method can also cause scarring on people, especially those with darker complexions.
Curettage is a common treatment for larger warts. Curettage is when your dermatologist uses a curette, a sharp spoon-shaped tool or a sharp knife, to scrape the wart down. This can cause mild tenderness but is typically well tolerated. After a wart is curetted, it is typically treated with cryotherapy or occasionally electrosurgery, burning the wart.
Excision is an additional option for larger warts. This is when your dermatologist shaves off the wart. These methods are typically avoided in young children due to some discomfort with treatment. Curettage, cryotherapy, electrosurgery and excision can also cause scarring.
Cantharidin is another treatment for warts more commonly used in children who are unable to tolerate cryotherapy. This is a medication that a dermatologist can apply to the wart in the office that causes a blister to form under the wart. The application of the Cantharidin is painless however pain may develop within a few hours to a few days after application.
Other topical therapies that can be prescribed by your dermatologists include Salicylic Acid and Aldara. Salicylic Acid is a topical product that works by slowly softening and breaking down the wart. There are over-the-counter versions of this as well as stronger prescription versions of this available. Aldara is a topical cream that works by stimulating the body’s defenses to fight the wart. This treatment is non-scarring and painless to apply. This is typically reserved for patients who are unable to tolerate or have not responded to other forms of treatment, are worried about scarring, or have facial warts.
Warts are very common and have multiple treatment options including some of which have not been discussed. If you have any skin lesions you are concerned could be a wart, it is important to see your dermatologist to have the area evaluated and discuss the best treatment option for you.
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