Warts are skin growths caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). A single wart or groups of warts can develop anywhere on damaged skin where a cut or crack provides an entry point for the virus. The several types of warts include common warts and plantar warts.
Common warts are, of course, the most common type. These warts look like small bumps that are rough on top. They often grow on the hands and fingers and are generally the same colour as the skin.
Plantar warts usually grow under the feet, often on pressure points or the heel or sole of the foot. They are often flattened, have small black spots and are covered with a tough top layer. As they get bigger, plantar warts may become painful because of body weight pressure. Plantar warts should not be confused with calluses or corns, which also develop on the soles of the feet or the toes. Unlike corns, a wart is painful when squeezed, and the skin lines aren't visible on the wart site. Don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist if you're not sure what you have.
Here are a few tips to avoid getting or spreading warts:
The products recommended most often to treat warts contain salicylic acid concentrations of between 11% and 40%. Salicylic acid may be the only ingredient or it may be combined with lactic acid, which makes the treatment more effective but also causes more irritation. Salicylic acid at low concentrations (11% to 20%) is used for common warts, while higher concentrations (17% to 40%) are used for plantar warts. These medications come in different forms: creams, gels, collodions (liquid bandages), discs and adhesive bandages. All of these products are effective when applied correctly.
Watch out! Salicylic acid is contraindicated for people with diabetes and people with circulation problems. Talk to your doctor if this is your situation. People with an aspirin allergy should also avoid these products.
Five steps to treat warts with salicylic acid
To treat warts with salicylic acid, repeat steps one to five below until the wart disappears, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. If the wart hasn’t gone away at that point, you’ll need to consult a doctor.
To be effective, the product needs to be used daily or as recommended by the manufacturer. If your skin becomes damaged or bleeds a bit after you apply the product, stop the treatment until the damaged skin heals.
Other OTC products are available on the market but are not used as much. These products include cantharidin, which needs to be applied by a doctor as it can be toxic.
Always ask your pharmacist about the best treatment for your situation and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Cryotherapy, or “therapy with cold,” treats the wart with an extremely cold substance. OTC products contain dimethylether and propane. After the product freezes the wart, a blister appears underneath to leave room for healthy skin to regenerate. If the first application doesn't work, repeat every 10 to 14 days for a maximum of three total applications. If the treatment fails after three applications, consult a doctor. This treatment can cause more side effects than salicylic acid and may be less effective than the cryotherapy done at the doctor’s office. OTC cryotherapy is contraindicated for children under the age of four, people with diabetes, people with poor circulation, and pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding.
If the treatment doesn’t work, you can consider other approaches with your doctor, such as cryotherapy, or the liquid nitrogen treatment applied at the doctor’s office.
A research study has indeed demonstrated the effectiveness of duct tape to eliminate warts, although it’s not fully clear how it works. You generally apply the duct tape for no more than two months. Curious to know more about the duct tape method? Ask your pharmacist!
Before treating a wart, you must consult a doctor in the following cases:
You must also consult a doctor if you haven’t seen any improvement after 2 weeks of treatment or if the wart is still there after 12 weeks of treatment.