What are the treatment options for warts?
Warts will often clear up without treatment as your immune system fights off the virus.
However, warts can spread and cause pain and you may feel embarrassed to have them. In these cases, a consultant dermatologist can recommend the best treatment to help get rid of them.
Treatment may take a few weeks or months and it’s important to understand that warts can return.
The most common treatment options for warts include:
- Salicylic acid
- Chemical treatments
- Laser treatment
Salicylic acid can be bought over the counter from your pharmacist and is the first line of treatment for warts. The treatment will come in the form of a cream, gel, paint, or medicated plaster and will need to be applied daily for several weeks.
Salicylic acid can destroy healthy skin so it’s important to protect the skin around the wart before applying the treatment. You may find a corn plaster or petroleum jelly helpful in creating a barrier around the wart.
If the wart is stubborn and over-the-counter salicylic acid had not been effective, your consultant may prescribe a stronger salicylic acid for you to use before trying other treatment options.
If salicylic acid has not been effective, your consultant may prescribe other chemical treatments that may contain formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde or silver nitrate.
These chemicals are applied in the same way as salicylic acid and work to get rid of the wart by killing the affected skin cells.
Cryotherapy treatment is where your consultant applies liquid nitrogen to the wart to freeze and destroy it. After the treatment, a blister will form, followed by a scab, and the wart will peel away from the skin after 7 to 10 days.
This treatment can be slightly painful and the wart will usually need to be frozen a few times over a number of sessions before it clears up completely. Each session takes around 5 to 15 minutes and you will need to wait a few weeks between treatments.
The side effects are minimal but you may experience some pain and blistering, your treated area of skin may become lighter or darker (hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation) and your nails may change shape if cryotherapy is used around the nails.
Immunotherapy may be used to treat stubborn warts that haven’t responded to other treatments. This type of treatment uses topical chemicals that cause a mild allergic reaction. This triggers your own immune system to start fighting the virus so that the wart will eventually go away.
Laser treatment is another option that may be appropriate when other treatments have failed. During the treatment your consultant will use a high-powered laser to heat and destroy the blood vessels inside the wart, cutting off the blood supply to kill the wart.
Depending on how many warts are being treated, the area of the skin may be numbed before treatment. Once the wart has been removed the skin should heal fully within 2 to 4 weeks.