Treating and Preventing Warts
There are plenty of effective treatments for warts, ranging from creams to laser treatment. Your doctor will decide which treatment is best, depending on the type of wart you have.
Common warts: These warts often respond to over-the-counter topical preparations such as salicylic acid and lactic acid, which work by peeling off the infected skin. Liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) may also be used.
Plantar warts: These warts may be difficult to get rid of and usually require a stronger solution of 40% salicylic acid. For extremely stubborn plantar warts, your doctor may use laser treatment or liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy).
Genital warts: Treatments for destroying genital warts include the following:*
- trichloroacetic acid (TCA) – one of the most popular treatments for warts; results are usually seen after just 1 or 2 treatments
- podophyllin solution (20%) – should not be used by pregnant women since it can cause birth defects in babies
- 5% 5-fluorouracil cream – this is a strong cream, so follow your doctor’s orders very carefully when using this product; pregnant women should not use this treatment
- interferon injection – this is a new treatment in which your doctor injects a chemical called interferon directly into the wart(s)
- imiquimod cream – a new cream treatment for genital warts which some people find less irritating than the other creams mentioned
- cryotherapy or electrocautery – freezing or burning the warts
- laser treatment – an effective method for getting rid of particularly stubborn warts
The latest prevention method for genital warts is a vaccination against 4 common types of HPV. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer, genital warts, and other health problems. The vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause about 90% of all genital warts. It also prevents infection with types of HPV that cause 70% of all cervical cancers, as well as precancers of the cervix and cancers of the vulva and vagina. The vaccination is available for girls and women 9 to 26 years of age.
Apart from genital or plantar warts, many warts will disappear on their own, without any treatment. However, if you find them bothersome, your doctor can prescribe a treatment such as cryotherapy, which involves freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen. Another option is the use of retinoid (vitamin A) creams prescribed by a doctor; this treatment is appropriate for a selected few and should be used only under close medical supervision.
Getting rid of a wart does not actually remove the offending virus. Therefore, to prevent the virus from spreading, it’s important to avoid contact with infected items. Try not to touch someone else’s warts and don’t let bare feet touch unknown moist surfaces. Most importantly, genital warts can be avoided by using condoms during sexual activity. If you’re ever diagnosed with genital warts, always complete follow-up exams and tell your partner or previous sexual partners so they can be properly tested and treated.