Warts 101

Aug 22, 2011

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

As a child do you remember the warning that if you touch or kiss a toad you might develop a wart? Well contrary to popular folk tales, it is purely a myth. Warts are actually caused by HPV, the human papillomavirus. HPV penetrates and infects the outer skin cells, usually via a small cut or abrasion on the skin. The time from the virus entering the skin to you noticing the developing wart may vary anywhere from a few weeks to months. A wart can develop and grow on the fingernails, fingers, backs of hands, arms and legs. A wart is recognizable by its cauliflower like surface appearance. Plantar warts, which grow on the bottom of the feet, are often grey or brown in color. It may appear as though there is a black dot in the centre of the plantar wart. Warts are not dangerous. They are just very annoying, irritating and most consider them to be very ugly.

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. Besides putting on a pair of flip flops it is always a good idea to wear 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 bodys 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.

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 at 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. Soak the affected area in warm water for 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. You freeze the wart using the product until it falls off. Sometimes multiple treatments are needed. A blister may form and the hope is the wart falls off with healthy skin behind it. Generally these products are safe. However; they should not be used by people who have diabetes or poor circulation unless approved by a physician or pharmacist.

There is also the duct tape treatment theory. In 2002 a medical trial showed 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.

Physicians use liquid nitrogen in their office to try rid of stubborn warts. This involves several treatments every 2-3 weeks. There is also some new prescription medications and even laser therapy which can treat certain types of warts. However it is recommended to always try over the counter medications first.

Even though we cannot make warts magically disappear, we can help you treat them. Even though the medications I have talked about today are available without a prescription it is a good idea to consult a pharmacist. Your Dauphin Clinic Pharmacist can help you select the best product and one that is safe!

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these products, ask your pharmacist.

We are always looking for new ideas for these articles. If you have any topic suggestions, please email us at dcp@mymts.net.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at www.dcp.ca


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