Warts!!! Ugh! They are very unsightly and very embarrassing. And you don’t have to ever touch a toad to get one. If you have ever experienced having a wart, you know just how terrible the process can be for removing them. Here you will find home remedies as well as medical methods used to rid yourself of the discomfort and awkward feeling that accompanies warts. (also learn about the kinds of warts that can be causing problems)
Causes of Warts
Warts are caused by a single virus, of which there is many strains. This virus is the human papillomavirus or hpv. This virus is one of the most prevalent infections in the world – it affects approximately 40% of all humans. Because of the warts that result from HPV, it is often times referred to as “the wart virus”. Genital warts are the most known wart in association with this virus; however, all warts are a result of HPV. Each type of wart (common, plantar, flat, and genital) comes from a different strain. Common warts originate from HPV types 2, 4 and 7. Plantar’s warts come from type 1, in the plantar area of the foot (Tips on how to get rid of plantar warts). Flat warts come from types 3 and 10 of HPV. Genital warts are a result of over 30 different types of the human papillomavirus.
Warts are actual viruses living IN the skin. Blood vessels feed the wart, and therefore the virus itself, keeping it alive and present. This is the reason that wart removal can often times be very painful - the wart is attached to capillaries and embedded in the skin. If you look at your wart, you will probably see little black dots inside. Those black dots are actually the clotted blood vessels feeding your wart. Yummmmm.
Warts are spread when a non-infected area of skin comes in contact with an infected area, either through direct contact or contact with skin cells shed from the wart. It is presumed that the uninfected skin must have at least a miniscule tear in order for HPV to be contracted. In other words, if you have a wart anywhere on your body, and that wart comes in contact with another person’s damaged skin, that uninfected person could now have HPV. (This includes warts on the hands and feet.)
Types of Warts
Warts come in varying shapes, sizes, and appearances. Some are single bumps, while others form in groups. Following is a guide to the types of warts and what to look for when determining what type of wart you have.
- Plantar's Warts: A common wart that grows on the side or bottom of your foot. Because they are located on the bottom of the foot, they are usually flat and painful due to your body weight pressing down on them. The wart is actually a lot bigger than what you can see. If you push down on the wart you will see an area that is yellowish in color which is the area of the whole wart. These warts are very contagious because this skin is so easily shed from your feet. Also, the virus likes warm and moist environments, including the gym-shower floor, so they are spread to athlete’s in the same manner as athlete's foot. Athlete’s have the highest incidence of planter’s warts, and diabetics are also susceptible to them.
- Flat Warts: These warts are small and smooth, with a round or oval shape. They appear in large numbers – 20 to 100 at a time - anywhere on the body. In children, these warts are most commonly found on the face. In men, they can be present within a beard, and in women, on the legs. Flat warts can spread quickly from cuts while shaving. Also, scratching the affected area can cause the warts to spread in a linear fashion.
- Genital Warts: Genital warts are spread through sexual contact involving the genitals, anus or mouth. They generally form as tiny, soft, flesh-colored bumps. They can become hard and rough and also develop a stalk. Sometimes multiple warts may grow resembling a small cauliflower. These warts are usually painless, and disappear after a couple months, but they are incurable; therefore they can come back again and again. (For information specific to genital warts, see our article How to Get Rid of Genital Warts)
Over-the-Counter Wart Cures
Lucky for you, most warts will disappear by themselves, but if you want to speed up the process, there are many over-the-counter products you could try. These are all either used to freeze (a mix of dimethyl ether and propane) or burn (salicylic acid) the wart off, which will destroy the cells containing the virus. Some of these include Compound W (gel, liquid, pad and spray), Dr. Scholl’s (pads/discs, liquid), Wartner (pads, liquid), and Curad (pads). It is important that you DO NOT use OTC medications on facial or genital warts. These medicines are too harsh for these sensitive areas.
Home Remedies for Warts
There is a vast array of home remedies for warts to choose from:
- Duct tape. Cut a piece of duct tape to fit over your wart. Leave the tape on for six days, then remove it and soak your wart in water for a few minutes. Use an emery board or pumice stone to file the dead skin on your wart down. Dry the area over night then reapply another piece of duct tape in the morning. Continue this process until your wart is gone. This is believed to work because the irritation that is caused forces your immune system to fight off the virus.
- Garlic. Crush some fresh garlic, rub it directly on your wart, and cover it with a bandage. Apply new garlic every day and your wart will blister and fall off within as little as a week. Be careful not to get garlic on the surrounding healthy skin; it helps to apply petroleum jelly to the skin around your wart.
- Vinegar. Soak a cotton ball in vinegar and tape it to your wart with a bandage for at least one or two hours daily.
- Dandelion sap. Pick a dandelion from your yard, break the stem open and drip the sap onto your wart. Do this daily until your wart disappears. The sap will mildly irritate your skin, stimulating your immune system to get rid of the wart. Do not use dandelions that have been treated within the past few years with an herbicide.
- Vitamin C. Make a paste out of ground Vitamin C tablets and water. Dab it onto your wart and cover it with a bandage. The high acidity of Vitamin C will aide in eliminating your wart as well as helping to fight off the HPV.
- Banana or lemon peel. Cut a piece of the peel to fit over your wart and tape it on, inner side down before bed. The chemicals and oils in these peels will help dissolve and discourage warts.
- Papaya. Using an unripe papaya, make small cuts on the surface, allowing the sap to run out. Collect the sap and let it coagulate. Mix the thick sap with water and apply it to your wart morning and evening. An enzyme in the papaya will digest dead tissue.
- Basil. Tape crushed, fresh basil to your wart using waterproof first-aid tape. Do this daily up to a week and the virus-killing compound in the basil leaf will kill your wart.
- Castor oil. Rubbing castor oil on your wart every day will break it down, possibly because the oil keeps the wart moist, causing the tough skin to just come apart.
- Aloe vera If you have an aloe plant at home, break a leaf off and rub the gel on your wart. Repeat this daily and your wart will disappear, perhaps due to the malic acid in aloe vera. (If you don't have an aloe plant, learn how to grow aloe vera)
- Hot water. Because plantar warts are sensitive to heat, soaking your feet in hot (110- to 113-degrees F) water for 15 minutes per day can eliminate your warts.
(All the above home remedies, and many more can be found in the book Reader’s Digest 1,801 Home Remedies: Trustworthy Treatments for Everyday Health Problems)
Curing Warts with Hypnosis & the Power of Suggestion
Hypnosis (learn how to hypnotize someone) has been a proven method for getting rid of warts. In some cultures, the patient is told to look at the night sky and count nine stars for nine nights. This method may seem like superstition, however it is meant to stimulate the subconscious mind and create belief and expectation, thereby getting rid of the warts. This type of hypnosis works for children often times, by convincing them that a certain ritual will “magically” make their warts disappear. One example would be to develop an intricate “wart-curing” ritual with your child, such as rubbing a stone on the wart, then burying the stone, signifying the disappearance of the wart.
Adults who have lost much of the innocence of children must use other methods of hypnosis, or the power of suggestion. The placebo effect works with many illnesses. Suggesting that the wart is being showered by potent x-rays has, in fact, worked with one man in making his warts fall off the next day (Reader’s Digest 1,801 Home Remedies, 2004).
The Deep Trance Now Hypnosis Program has recordings for sale that claim to be able to assist in the elimination of your warts.
Surgical Methods of Wart Removal
If none of the OTC, home remedies or hypnosis techniques work in eliminating your warts, there are some surgical procedures that your doctor could perform to remove your warts.
- Cryosurgery – freezing the wart off with liquid nitrogen. This freezes the wart and destroys the infected tissue, requires multiple visits and scarring is common. Very painful – the doctor may inject Lidocaine to numb the area.
- Electrocautery – using a high-frequency electric current (wire) applied to the wart. Very painful.
- Lasers - May leave scars, does not destroy the viral root and the warts may return.
- Surgical excision - cutting the wart off. Lidocaine is injected to numb the area. Scarring is common.
- Cantharidin Treatments – this chemical that comes from “blister beetles” is diluted and applied to the wart; a bandage is secured over the wart and can be removed in 24 hours. If the cantharidin is mixed with other chemicals, the bandage can be removed in 2 hours. Not immediately painful, but extremely painful 3 to 8 hours after application. The wart will blister. You must then revisit your doctor in order for him/her to remove the dead skin. If it is not completely removed, your doctor may repeat the procedure. This has varying degrees of success. (Beware: Cantharidin is as toxic as the most extreme poisons like strychnine. Only 10 mg ingested is fatal.)
- Miquimod – a drug most commonly used in treating genital warts. May be prescribed for plantar or flat warts. Is applied to the wart every one - three days. The cream triggers the immune system response against the wart-causing virus. This may cause redness of the skin around the wart.
- Bleomycin - (an anticancer drug), Cimetidine (antihistamine) and Tretinoin (vitamin A derivative used in some acne preparations) – all could be injected in small amounts directly into a hard-to-remove wart.
How to avoid contracting warts:
Your only prevention from developing warts is to avoid the human papillomavirus (HPV). The following tips will help with this task:
- Wear sandals in public showers, locker rooms, and around pools. These warm, moist environments are ideal for viruses.
- Do not touch any warts on yourself or anyone else.
- Do not share socks, shoes, razors, or towels. Just because warts are not visible, the virus may still be present.
- Keep your feet dry. If your feet sweat profusely, wear socks that will wick the moisture away.
- Take extra care not to injure the soles of your feet. Warts grow more easily if the skin is broken or injured.
How to keep from spreading warts:
- Keep your warts covered with a bandage.
- Do not bite your nails or cuticles. This may spread the virus from one hand to the other.
- Dry off your wart after washing your hands. Warts tend to be more contagious when wet, and by drying your hands you reduce the chance of spreading the virus to someone else.
- Leave the warts alone. Don’t scratch or pick at your warts because the virus can be transferred to other areas of the skin.
Click here for more information on how to get rid of warts.