After acne, warts are the most common dermatological complaint. At any one time, about 10 percent of people have a wart, says Robert Garry, Ph.D. About 25 percent will get one sometime in their lives.
Warts are caused by a virus. It's in the air, and you pick it up the same way you do any viral infection. If you're susceptible to the virus and you have an appropriate cut or crack in the skin for it to take hold, you'll get a wart.
Warts are benign skin tumors that can occur singly or in large packs on just about any part of the body. They come in several different varieties, each bearing its own special name, each caused by various strains of the papillomavirus. The virus masterfully tricks the body into providing it with free room and board in a sheltered "house"—the wart.
Unfortunately, standard medical treatments are often violent—burning, scraping, cutting, freezing, injecting, or zapping the wart with a laser. Many are also painful. Some even leave scars. The irony is, these techniques are not always effective. To add insult to injury, warts often reappear, no matter what treatment is used.
Knowing all this, you may want to try some home remedies before heading to the doctor's office. But, by all means, heed the advice of Thomas Goodman Jr., M.D. "Don't injure yourself with wart treatments. Start with simple measures and persist for several weeks before proceeding to stronger ones."
Unless otherwise noted, the following are effective for both common warts and plantar warts (those found on the foot).
If you have the slightest doubt about what you're dealing with, see a doctor. It could be a corn, callus, mole, or cancerous lesion.
In general, warts are pale, skin-colored growths with a rough surface, even borders, and blackened surface capillaries. Normal skin lines do not cross a wart's surface. And contrary to popular opinion, warts are very shallow growths—they don't have "roots" or "runners" that go down to the bone.
Jeffrey S. Bland, Ph.D., is chief science officer of Metagenics, a global leading life sciences company in San Clemente, California. He is also president of MetaProteomics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Metagenics located in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Marc A. Brenner, D.P.M., is founder and director of the Institute of Diabetic Foot Research in Glendale, New York, and is past president of the American Society of Podiatric Dermatology. He has authored and edited numerous textbooks and articles over the years, and has lectured nationally and internationally.
Robert Garry, Ph.D., is a professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans.
Glenn Gastwirth, D.P.M., is executive director of the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Thomas Goodman Jr., M.D., was formerly assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. He is the author of Smart Face.
Suzanne M. Levine, D.P.M., P.C., is a board certified podiatric surgeon and a podiatric attending physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital. She is the author of Your Feet Don't Have to Hurt.
Christopher McEwen, M.D., is a dermatologist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Owen Surman, M.D., is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He is the author of The Wrong Side of an Illness: A Doctor's Love Story.