Warts are small, rough skin growths that are caused by a virus. People can transmit them by touch. Although warts are usually harmless and eventually disappear, many people prefer to remove them.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes warts to form and spread between individuals. People may want to remove warts to prevent this spread or because they feel that warts are unsightly. There is a range of treatments that people can choose to help remove warts, including at-home and medical options.
In this article, we look at some of the strongest and most effective treatment options for removing warts, prevention tips, and when to contact a doctor.
There is currently limited evidence that any natural treatments for warts are effective. Here are some options:
Apple cider vinegar
Anecdotal reports suggest applying apple cider vinegar topically may help treat warts. However, there is little to no scientific evidence to support its use in this way.
Apple cider vinegar has
Apple cider vinegar also contains organic acids, including acetic, citric, lactic, and malic acid. These acids may have a
Treating the skin with apple cider vinegar may cause more harm than good. There have been
The study suggests garlic extract may be an effective and safe treatment option for common warts.
Catechins in green tea have antiviral, antioxidative properties and may stimulate the immune system. Sinecatechins ointment is a botanical drug containing green tea extracts that may effectively treat warts around the genitals and anus.
Studies involving 600 participants found that applying sinecatechins ointment three times a day cleared genital and anal warts in 53.6% of participants over 16 weeks. Over 90% of participants had no wart recurrence 12 weeks after treatment ended.
People may be able to treat warts with over-the-counter (OTC) treatments.
People may find using a topical treatment with
If people need to treat larger warts, they may need higher concentrations of salicylic acid. People should consult their doctor before treating a wart with high concentrations of salicylic acid at home.
If OTC treatments are not effective in removing warts, people may need to see their doctor for medical or surgical treatment.
Some of the strongest medical and surgical treatments to treat warts include:
A doctor may prescribe a stronger solution of salicylic acid to treat warts. Other agents may include tretinoin or glycolic acid. These solutions work to peel layers of the wart away.
Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy a wart. Research has shown cryotherapy effectively removes warts in
A 2018 study compared CO2 laser and cryotherapy treatments for plantar warts in 60 participants. The study found that people required an average of one session of CO2 laser treatment compared to three cryotherapy sessions to remove plantar warts altogether.
Electrosurgery and curettage
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), electrosurgery and curettage are good treatment options for removing common, filiform, and plantar warts. Electrosurgery burns the wart off with heat, while curettage scrapes the wart away.
Other strong treatments for wart removal include:
- Bleomycin: Bleomycin is an anti-cancer medication that a doctor injects into the wart. It can have side effects, such as loss of the nails if treating a wart on the finger.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy stimulates the immune system to fight warts. Applying a chemical called diphencyprone or shots of interferon encourages the body to fight HPV.
- Cantharidin: A doctor applies cantharidin to the wart, causing a blister to form underneath. The doctor then cuts the wart away.
While treating a wart, the AAD recommends these tips to aid healing:
- cover the wart to prevent spreading the virus to other people, or other areas of the body
- wash hands after touching or treating a wart
- do not shave over a wart or treatment area, as this can spread the virus
- avoid picking at or scratching a wart
If people have medical procedures to remove warts, they should follow their healthcare provider’s advice for aftercare.
Warts can return either in the same place or somewhere else on the body. Although wart treatment removes the wart, it does not treat the HPV that causes the warts.
Warts may shed cells containing HPV to surrounding areas of skin, causing more warts to grow alongside the original one. Treating warts straight away may help prevent this.
HPV can spread easily, but people may be able to prevent warts with the following tips:
- do not touch warts on anybody else
- avoid sharing personal items, such as towels and razors, with anyone who has a wart
- cover cuts or broken skin, as HPV can enter the body through open wounds
- prevent skin from becoming dry or cracked and do not bite nails, as these allow HPV to enter the body more easily
- wash hands frequently
- wear footwear in locker rooms, poolside areas, or public showers, as HPV thrives in wet, warm conditions
- treat hyperhidrosis, a condition that causes excessive sweating, as moist skin is more susceptible to HPV
- get the HPV vaccine to protect against genital warts and genital cancers
People need to see a doctor if they are unsure how to treat a wart or if they have:
- a weakened immune system
- warts on the face or genitals
- multiple or large warts
- concerns that a wart may be another type of growth
- warts that itch, bleed, burn, or feel painful
There are many treatment options for removing warts. People may find natural or OTC treatments are effective. In other cases, people may require medical procedures to remove warts.
If people are unsure how best to remove warts or have an underlying health condition such as diabetes, they should talk to their doctor to discuss options.