How are Warts Treated?

HK Vitals

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Warts, caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) entering cuts or breaks in the skin, manifest as rough, skin-colored bumps. This contagious skin infection can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected person. While hands are a common site for warts, they can also appear on the face, feet, genitals and knees. Children are more susceptible to warts due to frequent cuts, but they can affect anyone. Individuals with autoimmune diseases, weakened immune systems or the elderly are at a higher risk. So, read on to learn more about skin wart removal and treatment.

Wart Remedies at Home

While warts often resolve on their own, their potential embarrassment or discomfort may lead to home treatment attempts. Various drugstore treatments are available, providing effective options, such as:

Freezing Treatments

Freezing treatments available over the counter involve spraying a concentrated cold air mixture, typically propane and dimethyl ether, onto the wart. This process induces freezing, effectively killing the skin affected by the wart. Subsequently, you can scrape away the surface of the wart. While these treatments are considered the best wart removal technique for home use, it’s important to note that they may not be potent enough to eliminate all types of warts.

Patches and Treatments Containing Salicylic Acid

To effectively use patches and treatments containing salicylic acid for skin wart removal, follow these steps:

  • Apply these products every day, ideally for a few weeks, to allow the treatment to take effect.
  • Prior to applying the treatment, soak the wart in water for approximately 15 minutes. This helps soften the skin and enhances the effectiveness of the salicylic acid treatment.
  • Adhere to the specific directions provided on the package for the application and usage of the salicylic acid treatment. This ensures that you are using the product correctly and safely.

Duct Tape

Using duct tape to treat warts involves a simple yet potentially effective process:

  • Place a small piece of duct tape directly over the wart. Ensure that the tape adheres securely to the skin.
  • Allow the duct tape to remain in place for several days. This extended period allows the tape to work on the wart.
  • After several days, soak the wart in water. This helps soften the skin and aids in the removal of dead skin cells.
  • Gently rub the wart to eliminate the softened, dead skin. This step contributes to the gradual removal of the wart.

It’s important to note that this approach may require multiple rounds of treatments to achieve the desired results. 

Clinical Wart Treatment

When dealing with persistent, painful or numerous warts, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist who can offer various effective treatments. Depending on the patient’s age, health and the type of wart, dermatologists may employ different treatments, including:

  • Cantharidin application: The dermatologist applies cantharidin to the wart, causing a blister to form underneath. After about a week, the patient returns to the office, and the dermatologist removes the dead wart by clipping.
  • Cryosurgery (Freezing): This treatment is used to remove common warts in adults and older children. The dermatologist freezes a wart using cryosurgery. It may cause dark spots in individuals with dark skin, and repeat treatments might be necessary.
  • Electrosurgery and Curettage: Used to treat common warts, foot warts and filiform warts, electrosurgery involves burning the wart, followed by curettage, which is the scraping off of the wart with a sharp tool.
  • Excision: In this treatment, the dermatologist surgically cuts out the wart (excision).
  • Laser Treatment: Used for warts unresponsive to other therapies, the treatment involves numbing the wart with an anesthetic injection before using laser treatment.
  • Chemical peels: Prescribed for flat warts, this treatment requires patients to apply peeling medicines at home daily. These medicines may include salicylic acid (stronger than over-the-counter), glycolic acid and tretinoin.
  • Bleomycin Injections: The dermatologist injects each wart with an anti-cancer medicine, bleomycin. Shots may cause discomfort and side effects, such as potential nail loss in fingers.
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment is used when warts persist despite other treatments. It involves the application of chemicals like diphencyprone (DCP) to induce a mild allergic reaction, harnessing the patient’s immune system to eliminate warts.


Warts are abnormal skin growths caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), leading to accelerated cell growth. While common and generally harmless, warts can provoke feelings of embarrassment. They manifest as hardened lumps, thread-like protrusions or flat circular patches anywhere on the body. Although warts often resolve on their own, faster removal is possible through various treatments, including application of salicylic acid, laser treatment, cryotherapy, immunotherapy, excision and electrosurgery.

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