Monday, December 12, 2011

What are Warts and How Can I Treat Them?

Home treatment options can be as simple as applying medicine daily or covering the wart with duct tape to kill the growth.

Duct tape
Duct tape can be used to treat warts at home.

Warts are abnormal growths on the skin caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts typically have a cauliflower-like appearance and tend to bleed when injured. They can develop anywhere on your body but are most common on the hands and feet. Certain HPV types cause warts on the penis, vagina or rectum, and are collectively called genital warts.

Are Warts Contagious?

Warts are contagious and can spread from one place on your body to another if you touch or scratch them. Sharing towels, razors and flip-flops are other ways that warts can be passed from person to person. Genital warts are highly contagious and spread through sexual contact. 

How Can I Get Rid of Warts?             

There are several conventional methods for treating common warts:

  • Over-the-counter topical products contain salicylic acid, which is applied to the wart daily. 
  • Alternatively, home "freeze-off" options are available, which use cold temperatures to destroy the wart over a series of treatments. 
  • One highly effective and painless home remedy is duct tape. Duct tape is cut to twice the size of the wart and placed over the area. Keep the tape on day and night — even in the shower — and replace as needed when the edges start peeling up. This kills the wart by irritating it, which causes the body to mount an immune reaction to destroy the wart. After one week, remove the tape, soak the area in warm water for 10 minutes and gently shave off any deadened skin on top of the wart (a pumice stone works great). Reapply the tape for another week and repeat the process until the wart disappears.
  • Genital warts should be treated in a doctor's office only.   

For more information on warts, see the KidsHealth website.

Sometimes warts can be difficult to treat, in which case you should see your doctor for additional options. To make an appointment at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, call 206-834-4100. 

—  Jocelyn Cooper, ND, naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University.

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