Treating Warts Faster

Oct 11, 2017

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

Many people come to the pharmacy, frustrated in their attempts to treat a wart, usually presenting on either their hands or feet. Planter warts on the feet can be very painful and annoying as they usually show up on a spot where you apply weight and pressure to the foot. While a wart on the hands is often painless, most do not appreciate the appearance warts give off.

Warts are caused by HPV, the human papillomavirus. Usually via a cut or abrasion on the skin, HPV penetrates and infects the outer skin cells. The time from the virus entering the skin to you noticing the developing wart may vary anywhere from a few weeks to several months. A wart can develop and grow on the fingernails, fingers, backs of hands, arms and legs. A wart is usually recognizable by its cauliflower like surface appearance. Plantar warts are often grey or brown in color. It may appear as though there is a black dot in the centre of the plantar wart. Sometimes a plantar wart may appear just below the outer layer of skin, so you may not be sure what it is. Warts are not dangerous. They are just very annoying, irritating and most consider them to be very ugly and not a pet we want to have growing on us.

As mentioned, plantar warts usually develop where our feet touch the floor. The virus can survive on floors, so it is a good idea to wear some type of footwear where other people may be in bare feet. This includes gyms, change rooms, communal showers and swimming areas. With summer just wrapping up, there is an increased risk of plantar warts showing up in the near future. Aside from putting on a pair of flip flops in the dressing room or in a shared dorm bathroom, be sure you do not have any open sores on the bottom of your feet and be sure to rinse them off regularly. It is always a good idea to change into clean socks and shoes, while keeping the feet clean and dry.

Between 20% and 30% of warts will heal in the first 6 months, due to our body's immune function fighting the virus. About 65% will disappear within two years. Although it is good news your body can take care of a wart on its own, two years is quite a long time to wait. Most of us want to speed up the healing process and get rid of it faster!

There are some good products available without a prescription. Most wart treatment products contain the active ingredient salicylic acid in varying concentrations. It works by slowly eating away or peeling away the affected skin. Products include Duoforte, Duofilm and Compound W. They are available in liquids, gels and even in pads or bandages which cover the wart. Treatment can sometimes take up to 12 weeks to work, but there are some things you can do to speed up elimination of the wart. Try soaking the affected area in warm water for at least 10 minutes and rub away the loose tissue with a pumice stone. After applying the medication cover the treated area with waterproof tape.

There are also products which freeze off the wart. These cryotherapy products come as a container of gases, that when mixed, make a very cold chemical reaction. The wart is 'frozen' by this treatment, but it may need to be repeated multiple times. A blister may form and the hope is the wart falls off with healthy skin behind it.

Generally all of the products mentioned are safe. However; they should not be used by people who have diabetes or poor circulation unless approved by a physician or pharmacist. Also use caution when using these medications on small children.

I should also mention the duct tape treatment theory. Limited medical trials have shown duct tape helped to clear 85% of warts which was actually better than any other treatment option. The wart was soaked in water, scrubbed with a pumice stone and then covered with a piece of duct tape for 6 days. The process was repeated until the wart cleared. It is a medical mystery as there is no understanding how duct tape actually works to clear the wart. However; it is a cheap treatment option and you can still use other topical products with the duct tape.

Physicians use liquid nitrogen and other prescription only products in their office to try to eliminate stubborn warts. This involves several treatments every 2-3 weeks. However; it is recommended to always try over the counter medications first. They are often similar in effectiveness and you can treat at home. Even though we cannot make warts magically disappear, we can help you treat them more aggressively. While medication is available without a prescription, your clinic pharmacist is available to help you select the product that is right for you and your family.


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