Warts are small, generally harmless, and usually painless growths on the skin. Warts can be disfiguring and embarrassing, however, and occasionally they will hurt or itch. The different types of warts include the following.

Warts affect all age groups. Genital warts are quite contagious, while common, flat, and plantar warts are much less likely to spread from person to person. All warts can spread from one part of the body to another. Some warts will disappear without treatment, although it can take as long as six months to two years. Whether treated or not, warts that disappear often reappear.

Signs and Symptoms

What Causes It?

Warts are caused by a common virus in humans, the human papillomavirus (HPV). Your risk of getting warts is increased by direct contact with warts or the fluid in warts (notably genital warts), using communal facilities (such as locker rooms), skin trauma, and diseases or drugs that weaken your immune system.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Warts can generally be diagnosed by location and appearance. Your health care provider may want to cut into a wart to confirm that it is not a corn, callus, or other similar-appearing growth, but rarely will your provider have to order laboratory tests. If you have genital warts, your provider will want to check inside your anus and (in women) vagina.

Treatment Options

Medical treatments include drug therapy (usually the first-line treatment), cryosurgery ("freezing" the wart to destroy tissue), electrosurgery, lasers, and cutting out the wart. Unless your wart is causing significant problems, you should avoid treatments that have risks or could result in scarring.

Drug Therapies

Common, flat, and plantar warts: nonprescription preparations using salicylic acid are available over the counter.

Genital warts: in most cases, your health care provider will either apply podophyllin weekly or prescribe a podofilox for you to apply.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Nutritional and herbal support may enhance immune function and minimize recurrence of HPV, the virus that causes warts.

Some changes you can make in your diet include the following. Herbs
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made with 1 tsp. of herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.

Combine tinctures of one part goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) with two parts each of the following herbs: lomatium (Lomatium dissectum), licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), osha (Ligusticum porteri), and thuja leaf (Thuja occidentalis). Take 30 drops twice a day. Do not take licorice if you have high blood pressure.

Topical applications are most effective for treating warts. Stop any topical application if irritation should develop in the surrounding skin. For plantar, flat, and common warts use the following applications. To maximize benefit, place two to four drops of tincture of thuja or greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) on the wart before covering with peel or garlic. This application may need to be repeated nightly for up to three weeks. The wart will turn black as it begins to die.

For external genital warts, paint the warts with vitamin A or beta-carotene once or twice daily. Add 3 to 4 drops each of thuja, echinacea, and lomatium for best results.

Two well-designed trials evaluating the use of homeopathy in the treatment of common and plantar warts found that the remedies were no more effective than placebo in reducing the number of warts. Despite the lack of evidence from these two trials, professional homeopaths might recommend one of the following treatments for warts based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account an individual's constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person's constitution is his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual. Acupuncture
Acupuncture may be helpful in stimulating your immune system.

Special Considerations

Do not use podophyllin if you are pregnant.


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