Warts are a difficult to treat skin condition that affects many individuals at some point in their life. A wart is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), and is a contagious skin condition. There are a few treatments that are available that work, but not 100% of the time. No wart treatment works for every patient, but some work more consistently than others. The best treatment for warts is one that quickly gets rid of the wart in the least painful way.
What are Warts?
Anyone can get warts, but they are more common in children and in people with chronic skin conditions. The virus that causes warts can more easily infect already broken skin. Warts are more common in children because their immune systems are still developing. Warts form because HPV causes skin cells to grow abnormally. HPV is transferred from the environment to the upper layers of the skin, most commonly when the skin is broken. The most common places to get a wart are on either the hands or the feet.
- Freezing: A wart can be frozen off with liquid nitrogen. This procedure is also called cryotherapy, and must be done by a trained professional.
- Lasers: Lasers can destroy a wart by burning it. This must be done at a dermatologist’s office.
- Cautery and Curettage: This procedure involves first burning a wart then cutting it out. This treatment is not a recommended first-line treatment, and in most cases is reserved only for warts that do not respond to any other treatment.
- Salicylic Acid: A keratolytic agent that works by removing layers of skin affected by the virus. Salicylic acid has a variety of dermatological applications, and is found in chemical peels to treat everything from acne to wrinkles.
- Duct Tape: An at-home remedy that is sometimes used involves simply covering the wart in duct tape. The tape is placed on the wart, left on for a few days, then removed. The wart is then filed and soaked, and the procedure repeated. This can actually be effective for some patients, but most patients will require another treatment.
- 5-Fluorouracil: This treatment has been used in multiple skin conditions that require the removal/renewal of skin cells. It helps increase cell turnover and remove cells causing the wart.
What is the Best Treatment for Warts?
The best treatment for warts is one that contains two powerful ingredients that work synergistically. These ingredients are 5-fluorouracil and salicylic acid. This combination of ingredients, which is only available from a compounding pharmacy, has been shown in studies to quickly get rid of a wart for the majority of patients. 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) is a drug that helps increase cell turnover to remove the infected skin cells. Salicylic acid enhances its effects.
The 5-FU and salicylic acid treatment (we call it WartEx), is applied to the wart before bedtime. The wart is then covered with tape, which stays on overnight. The tape is removed in the morning and the wart is washed thoroughly. This procedure is repeated daily for a time determined by a dermatologist or physician. With this treatment combined with some curettage to file down the wart (performed by physician) patients may see results as soon as a week after starting.
The Best Wart Treatment for Children
For children, a topical treatment with 5-FU/salicylic acid is preferable to treatment like lasers and cryotherapy. Physical procedures may be painful or frightening to a child. A topical treatment that can be applied at home is more likely to be used consistently and heal the wart faster.
For all patients, it is important to first consult a dermatologist before starting a treatment. Mention the possibility of using a compounded wart treatment with 5-FU and salicylic acid to your healthcare provider. Our trained pharmacists are happy to discuss compounded options for wart treatment with them so that you can get rid of this uncomfortable skin condition faster.