This article was previously published on June 15, 2019 and has been updated with new information.
Warts are benign skin growths that occur when a virus infects the top layer of the skin. The virus that causes warts to grow comes from human papillomavirus (HPV). Although warts are contagious, most people who are exposed to HPV do not develop warts.1
Common warts appear as small, granular skin growths, usually on the fingers or hands.2 It can take up to six months for warts to develop after exposure to the virus. Common warts are usually harmless and will eventually go away without any treatment. Warts are more likely to go away in children than in adults.3
Of the 200 known HPV strains,4 Only 10 trigger skin warts. Others are involved in the development of anal and genital warts. Although some sexually transmitted types of HPV can cause cervical or other genital cancers, most strains that cause skin warts are not associated with cancer.5
Warts appear more often when the top layer of skin is broken. Common warts are usually skin-colored and feel rough, but may have a small black spot in the center, sometimes called a “seed.”6 Other types of warts may appear flat and smooth, or they may be large and disfiguring.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology,7 While most warts are harmless, a dermatologist may choose to treat them. While there is no cure for the wart virus, there are ways to remove current warts. However, because the virus remains in your body, it may return in the same location or appear in a new location.
Attempt to remove warts with tape
Few reliable population-based studies have assessed the incidence of nongenital warts. Incidence rates may vary between age groups and populations. Two past studies found 0.84% in the US and 12.9% in Russia.
Highest prevalence in children, two school-age population studies8 12% of children aged 4 to 6 in the UK and 24% of children aged 16 to 18 in Australia show warts. Cryotherapy, or the application of liquid nitrogen to freeze warts and destroy the cells, is the traditional way to remove warts quickly. However, it usually requires repeated treatments and leaves blisters.
a study9 A 2002 study compared duct tape for wart removal with cryotherapy. The researchers conducted a prospective randomized controlled trial in general pediatric and adolescent clinics on military bases.
They recruited 61 patients between the ages of 3 and 22, of whom 51 completed the study. The primary outcome measure was complete resolution of the warts under study. The group was divided into two groups; 26 were treated with tape and 25 with cryotherapy.
The results showed that simply using tape was more effective than cryotherapy when treating common warts. They also found that warts that responded to the tape often showed partial resolution after two to three weeks of treatment, while those that did not change in appearance within three weeks were less likely to respond.10
The benefits of duct tape over cryotherapy
As a result of this study, the cure rate with tape was 85%,11 Compared to 60% in the cryotherapy group, much higher than a systematic review of the literature published in the British Journal of Dermatology12 The researchers concluded:
“The results of the pooled analysis found a cure rate of 23% (5-73%) in the placebo trial, 52% (0-87%) in the SA (salicylic acid) trial, and 49% in cryotherapy % (0-69%) of trials, 54% (45-75%) in active cryotherapy trials and 58% (38-78%) in combined cryotherapy and SA trials.
There is insufficient evidence from RCTs to support the use of therapies other than SA and aggressive cryotherapy. Higher-quality evidence is needed to evaluate other therapies. “
In addition, the use of tape has other potential benefits compared to cryotherapy, as it is more practical for parents and patients to use at home, requires fewer clinical visits, is less painful and is more cost-effective.
In the JAMA featured study, researchers found that while many people can tolerate cryotherapy, children under 6 often remember previous applications as painful, and one child vomited for fear of pain before each application. The only side effect of the tape group was minimal local irritation.
Some patients find it difficult to hold the tape in place, and using the tape on the face can be cosmetically inconvenient. Although there are many treatments for wart eradication, tape appears to be safe, non-threatening, and more effective than cryotherapy, with few side effects, researchers have found.13
Common types of warts
There are three common types of skin warts that appear anywhere other than on your hands, feet, or genital area. Common warts have a raised, rough surface that may be light to gray-brown in color and appearance.14 These mainly appear on the hands, around the fingernails or toenails. However, they can also appear on the face or any other part of the body.
Plantar warts are found on the soles of the feet in clusters, sometimes called mosaic warts.15 They are rough and floppy in appearance and stay flat when you walk on them. They may be grey or brown. The black dots sometimes seen are called seeds, but are actually clotted blood vessels. They usually cause pain or tenderness when you walk or stand on them.16
Flat warts are mostly found on the face, hands, and tibia, and are much less common than other warts.17 However, when they do appear, they usually appear in large numbers, sometimes in groups of 20 to 200.18
Although they are called flat warts, they may sometimes be slightly raised, usually smooth pink, and smaller than other warts. They are usually barely visible and not painful. They usually occur in children and are sometimes called juvenile warts.19
Five Activities That Increase Wart Risk
Skin warts are not highly contagious, although they can spread from person to person through direct contact, mainly when the skin breaks. According to Harvard Health Press,20 Theoretically, you could pick up warts from the locker room floor or the shower, but there’s no way to assess how often this happens.
While most people will be repeatedly exposed to HPV, everyone’s immune system responds differently, so not everyone will develop warts.twenty one However, there are several activities that may increase your risk:
• age – Children and teens are at higher risk of developing warts, especially common, plantar, and flat warts.twenty two HPV is more susceptible to infection when the skin is broken, which may explain why children and teens are at higher risk because they often suffer more wounds than adults.twenty three
• nail biting – Nail biting or pulling increases the risk of infecting periungual warts at the base of the nail bed and spreading those warts into the mouth or other areas of the skin.twenty four These types of warts can elevate the nails, cause them to grow abnormally, and be a source of pain, disfigurement, and embarrassment.
• shaving pubic hair — Both men and women increase their risk of warts caused by HPV infection by shaving their pubic hair.25 The researchers examined individuals at a private skin clinic and found that 93 percent of those with molluscum contagiosum, a mild sexually transmitted disease, also had their pubic hair removed by waxing, shaving or cutting their hair.26
Warts are also found and can easily spread to the area during sex, or by scratching open and irritated skin, spreading HPV.
• Weak immune system — Malnutrition, lack of sleep, certain medications or diseases may weaken the immune system.
• sexual activity – The more sexual partners you have with you, the higher your risk of genital warts. If you have sex with a partner who has a large number of sexual partners, this also increases your overall risk of contracting HPV.27
Other Effective Home Remedies for Warts
Common warts may go away on their own, especially in children. However, if you want to get rid of them quickly, there are several other strategies you can try, depending on your condition or your healthcare provider’s recommendations.
It’s important to remember that these treatments are only for common warts, not warts on your face or genitals. In these cases, seek medical advice to avoid complications.
Salicylic acid – The product is available in patches, ointments and pads to help remove the wart layer.28 Before use, soak the wart in warm water and sand the dead skin with an emery board or pumice stone. However, it may not clear the wart-causing virus and may cause the wart to recur.
Cantharidin — This is a topical lather or foaming agent that is effective in helping to remove warts.29 A meta-analysis30 It was found to be effective against warts on the feet when combined with salicylic acid and podophyllotoxin, a plant-derived product used to help remove venereal warts.
garlic – The antiviral properties in garlic may help fight viruses and support your immune system. Apply garlic to the wart, but don’t let it come into contact with the skin overnight, as this can cause burns.31
banana peel – The inside of the banana peel can come into direct contact with the wart and be taped for a few days. Remove it and replace it with a new banana peel until the wart disappears, which can take up to three weeks.32
pineapple juice – Apply the juice directly to the wart on a cotton ball, or place a small piece of pineapple on the wart and wrap it with a bandage for three to five minutes. Repeat two to three times a day.33
Aloe Vera – Dip a cotton ball with aloe vera gel, touch it to the wart, and tape it in place for several days. Reapply aloe vera every few hours.34
Condyloma acuminatum is different
Although genital warts are also caused by HPV, they are usually sexually transmitted and are not the same as common or flat warts. Genital warts should not be treated at home and require medical attention.35
Genital warts can appear as small flesh-colored bumps or a group of bumps in the genital area that may look like cauliflower. Some are so small you can’t see them. Symptoms may include itching, burning, and discomfort. While there is no cure, it can be removed with prescription-only treatments.36
Like other types of warts, they are spread through contact with an infected person. There are more than 40 strains of HPV that specifically affect the genital area. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly all sexually active people will be infected with one or another HPV type at some point in their lives.37
Having unprotected sex with multiple partners, having another sexually transmitted infection, or having sex with a partner you don’t know your medical history can increase your risk of contracting any type of HPV.38 Genital warts can also cause problems during pregnancy because they change the ability of vaginal tissue to stretch during labor and can bleed during labor.
Reduce your risk of warts by supporting optimal immune health
You can reduce your risk of warts and improve your ability to fight infection by supporting your immune function. People with weakened immune systems have an increased risk of warts because the body may not be able to eliminate the virus.
Your immune system depends on several factors, including your nutrition, sleep quality, vitamins, and gut health. Each of these strategies will help support your immune system not only against warts, but other diseases as well.