Although many people can treat warts with over-the-counter treatments and home remedies, it is best to see a doctor for treatment when these methods aren’t effective or if they have spread. The goal of medical treatment is to destroy the wart or stimulate the immune system to fight off the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus that causes them.
A doctor may recommend the following treatment methods based on your symptoms and preferences:
Salicylic Acid Treatments: Most over-the-counter wart medications in liquid, gel, pad or ointment form contain salicylic acid. These products work by softening abnormal skin cells and causing the warts to dissolve. The medication is applied to the warts daily, often for several weeks.
Cantharidin Treatments: A doctor may use cantharidin, a chemical that causes blisters to form on the wart’s growth. This treatment is sometimes painful, but it will remove the warts.
Liquid Nitrogen: A doctor uses a probe or cotton swab to apply liquid nitrogen directly to the wart. The wart is then cooled to below freezing, destroying the cells in it and causing the dead tissue to fall off within a few days.
Injections using different kinds of medicine: These medicines can include bleomycin and 5-fluorouracil (both drugs inhibit cell growth), interferons and medications that stimulate your immune system to fight off the wart virus. The doctor may also inject a substance called Candida antigen, which will activate the body’s immune system to attack the wart.
Laser Treatment: A doctor may use a laser to heat and destroy the wart’s cells. This is done to prevent it from spreading and to make the healing process quicker.
Electrosurgery and curettage: A dermatologist may also scrape the wart with a sharp knife or small, spoon-shaped tool before or after using an electric implement to burn the wart. This procedure is most often used for common warts, filiform warts and foot warts, but may also be helpful for some types of genital warts.
Cryosurgery: For most warts that aren’t in the genital area, cryosurgery is a good treatment option. This method is very effective, but it doesn’t remove the underlying HPV infection that causes warts. It is not very painful, but it is common for people to need repeat treatments.
Surgery: A dermatologist may recommend surgery if your warts are large and difficult to treat with other options, or if they are causing pain or affecting your quality of life. Surgery can be done under local anesthesia, and it leaves a scar.
A doctor can also prescribe stronger peeling medicine called salicylic acid. These prescription-strength medications help to remove the top layers of the warts. This may be more effective than other over-the-counter wart treatments, but it can be painful and can take a long time to work. This treatment is best used in combination with other over-the-counter or prescription treatments, such as freezing and cantharidin.