Warts aren’t just for witches and goblins. According to member dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology, children and teens, people who frequently bite their nails, and people with a weakened immune system are more prone to getting warts than others.
Although warts can grow anywhere on the skin, they are most common on people’s hands and feet. According to dermatologists, most warts are grey, brown, or skin-colored rough bumps that may have little black dots on them. People often call these dots “seeds,” but they are actually clogged blood vessels. Other warts are smooth, flat, pink bumps – often occurring on the face.
“Warts are caused by a virus, and the virus can sometimes spread from one place on your body to another or from person to person,” said board-certified dermatologist Adam J. Friedman, MD, FAAD, associate professor of dermatology, residency program director and director of translational research, George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “However, each person’s immune system responds to the wart virus differently, so not everyone who comes in contact with the virus develops warts.”
To prevent warts from spreading, Dr. Friedman recommends the following tips:
- Do not pick or scratch warts, or touch someone else’s wart.
- Wash your hands after treating warts.
- Wear flip-flops in public showers and pool areas.
- Keep warts on your feet dry, as moisture tends to allow warts to spread.
Although most warts go away without treatment within two years, there are things you can do to help get rid of warts more quickly. However, says Dr. Friedman, home treatment for warts is trial and error; what works for one person may not work for another and it is impossible to directly kill the wart virus. Home treatments are intended to irritate or inflame the wart area so that your immune system will fight off the virus.
To treat common warts at home, Dr. Friedman recommends one of the following methods:
- Apply a wart treatment product with salicylic acid to your wart: Available over-the-counter, this will help peel the wart-ridden skin and irritate the wart, which may trigger the immune system to respond. Before applying the product, soak the wart in warm water and then sand the wart with a disposable emery board. Use a new emery board each time you do this, and keep in mind that it can take several months to see good results.
- Cover the wart with duct tape: Although studies conflict about whether this gets rid of warts, changing the tape every few days may peel away layers of the wart-ridden skin and trigger the immune system to fight off the wart. To do this, soak the wart in warm water and then sand it with an emery board. Afterwards, apply duct tape to the area. Remove and reapply the duct tape every five to six days until the wart is gone.
If you notice that the skin around your wart is raw or bleeding, says Dr. Friedman, stop treating the wart at home and see a board-certified dermatologist. You should also see a dermatologist if you cannot get rid of your wart; your wart hurts, itches, or burns; you have many warts; you have a wart on your face or genitals; or if you have a skin growth and are unsure if it’s a wart or something else, as some skin cancers can look like warts.
“Dermatologists can treat warts through prescription medications or in-office procedures,” said Dr. Friedman. “However, it’s important to remember that there is no cure for the wart virus, so new warts can appear in a new spot at any time.”
These tips are demonstrated in “Home Treatment for Warts,” a video posted to the Academy website