Warts are benign lesions that can develop on the skin or mucous membranes. People can develop warts anywhere on the body, including the fingers, face, scalp, and genitals.

The contagious virus human papillomavirus (HPV) causes warts. Various strains of HPV that can lead to different types of wart.

Some people find that warts disappear without treatment. However, people should see a doctor if they develop warts, as removal may require medical treatment.

In this article, we look at both home remedies and clinical treatments for getting rid of warts on the fingers.

A photo of warts being treated with salicylic acid, which is a way how to get rid of warts on fingers.Share on Pinterest
Treating warts with salicylic acid is an at-home remedy that may help remove warts from fingers.

Although warts sometimes resolve on their own, people may request treatment for warts that cause pain, discomfort, or cosmetic concerns.

Doctors may recommend home treatments, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Some examples are outlined below.

Salicylic acid

People with warts on their fingers can try OTC salicylic acid to treat their warts.

Salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent, meaning it breaks down the cells of the skin. People should only apply salicylic acid directly onto warts, taking care to avoid the surrounding skin.

Doctors and pharmacists sometimes recommend applying a physical barrier to the surrounding skin before applying the salicylic acid to the wart. A popular barrier option is petroleum jelly.

Doctors may also suggest soaking the wart with warm water for 5 minutes before applying the treatment. People can also try filing down any thick skin on the wart with a pumice stone or emery board.

These methods may help the medicine penetrate the layers of skin that contain active HPV.

Salicylic acid is available in many different preparations and concentrations, but according to the American Family Physician (AAFP), most people use a preparation containing 17% salicylic acid.

This dosage is effective and people tend to tolerate it well. However, some people may notice mild irritation at the site of application.

The AAFP indicate that people may need to continue the treatment twice daily for a maximum of 12 weeks.

Imiquimod (Aldara)

Some doctors may prescribe imiquimod (Aldara) cream for treating warts on the fingers. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have only approved this cream to treat genital and perianal warts.

Duct tape

A 2019 review in Canadian Family Physician describes a treatment for warts in children using duct tape. Estimates suggest this procedure cures about 80% of warts.

Although the evidence for the effectiveness of this method is limited, it is safe to use duct tape, and most people tolerate it well.

According to the Canadian Family Physician, people with warts on their fingers can apply a small piece of duct tape onto the wart once every 4–7 days. The person should remove the tape after a maximum of 7 days.

Once the tape is off, the person must clean the area with soap and water. They can then use an emery board to remove any dead skin from the wart. The person should reapply another piece of tape 12 hours later. People may need to repeat this cycle for 4-6 weeks.

The AAFP note that the effectiveness of using duct tape to remove warts remains unclear. Therefore, doctors may only recommend using this method, along with salicylic acid or other established wart treatments.

Several procedures that may be effective for the treatment of warts are available in-office.

Below are some of the more effective procedures that doctors and dermatologists may use to remove warts.

Cryotherapy

The AAFP explain that cryotherapy is an in-office procedure that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze warts to a temperature of -321°F (-196°C). This damages the various layers of the wart, causing it to shed after three or four cryotherapy treatments. Cryotherapy cures warts in 50–70% of cases.

At-home wart cryogenic devices are available to buy. However, experts are unclear if these OTC products are effective at removing warts since they cannot reach the extremely low surface temperatures that in-office cryotherapy reaches.

Candida and mumps skin antigens

Antigens are substances that cause an immune response in the body. An early pilot study in 2001 showed how injections of Candida or mumps antigen into a wart stimulated an immune response against HPV.

The immune response may occur within the injected wart, as well as other distant warts.

According to the AAFP, people may require injections every 3–4 weeks for a maximum of three treatments.

Photodynamic therapy with aminolevulinic acid

Photodynamic therapy with aminolevulinic acid is a more expensive option for wart removal.

The treatment involves exposing the wart to aminolevulinic acid for 3–8 hours. The acid makes the wart sensitive to light. The dermatologist then targets the wart with a light source, which causes the wart to destabilize and fall off.

A study in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications reported high success rates using this procedure.

Other procedures

Not all procedures for wart removal are equally effective. According to a 2011 review, scientists are yet to determine the effectiveness of the following procedures:

  • Intralesional bleomycin: This procedure involves injecting the anti-cancer treatment drug called bleomycin into the wart. Doctors may use this method to treat persistent warts that have not responded to other forms of treatment.
  • Pulsed dye laser: This involves directing concentrated beams of light into the wart. The light destroys blood vessels (capillaries) inside the wart but leaves the surrounding skin undamaged.
  • Surgical removal using curettage or cautery: A doctor may remove the wart by scooping it out with a rounded loop blade (curettage) or by burning it with a heated instrument (cautery).

Warts may persist for weeks to months. People may have to apply wart treatments several times per day for as long as the wart persists.

People should also be aware that warts commonly recur, regardless of the treatment method a person uses.

After a doctor has diagnosed and treated a wart, they will provide advice on aftercare. This will include information on:

  • how to prevent further trauma to the area
  • how to prevent transmission of the HPV to other people

Preventive measures a person can take to help reduce their risk of developing further warts include:

  • avoiding nail-biting
  • wearing proper shoes at the pool-side
  • washing hands often to help clear virus from the skin

People usually do not experience any scarring or residual defects after a wart has disappeared.

Although there are many treatment options for warts, they can differ significantly in their cost and effectiveness.

Recurrences of warts are very common with each type of treatment. For this reason, it might be sensible to try the least expensive treatments first.

Doctors typically reserve the more expensive treatments for multiple recurrent warts.

Although a person can treat warts using OTC products, people should consult a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. Warts may resemble other skin conditions that may require different management.

People should also see a doctor if they do not see any improvement in finger warts after using 17% salicylic acid for no longer than 12 consecutive weeks.

Will they go away by themselves?

Often, warts will go away spontaneously. As a result, a person’s doctor may recommend watchful waiting to see if the wart resolves without medication.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) note that warts are contagious. A person may develop warts as a result of direct or indirect contact with another person’s wart.

Direct contact is where part of a person’s body touches another person’s wart. Indirect contact is where part of a person’s body touches an object that previously came into contact with another person’s wart.

Examples include touching a doorknob that another person has touched, or walking barefoot at a public pool.

A person’s skin provides some degree of protection from HPV. As such, if a person with broken skin comes into contact with HPV, they may be more likely to contract the virus.

Warts on the fingers are a common contagious skin condition caused by HPV. People can get warts on their fingers through direct or indirect contact.

Warts can resolve on their own, but people may request treatment if the wart is uncomfortable, painful, or causes cosmetic concerns.

Several treatments are available, including home remedies and dermatologic procedures. Not all treatment options are equally effective, and all can result in the wart growing back after some time.

Although a person can treat warts at home, they should see a doctor for a diagnosis. Warts can resemble other skin conditions that may require different treatment and management.