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Treatment of Common Hand Warts


Common warts (Verruca vulgaris) are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts on the hands or feet do not carry the same clinical consequences of HPV infection in the genital area. It is estimated about 10% of children and adolescents have warts at any given time. As many as 22% of children will contract warts during childhood.

Common warts can occur anywhere on the body, but 70% occur on the hand. Often they will disappear on their own within a year. Even with treatment, warts can take up to a year to go away.

Before heading to the doctor, there are treatments you can try at home: salicylic acid or duct tape.

When using the 17% salicylic acid gel (one brand name: Compound W), it must be applied every day until the wart is gone. Only apply to the wart, not the skin around the wart. This treatment is enhanced by covering the wart with an occlusive water-proof band-aid or duct tape after applying the acid. It can also be enhanced by gently filing the wart with an emery board daily to remove the dead cells prior to applying the salicylic acid. Treatment can take weeks to months. Don’t give up early.

Duct Tape can take weeks to be effective. Apply the duct tape to the wart and keep it in place for six days. After removing the tape, soak the wart, and pare it down with a filing (emery) board. Repeat the above until the wart disappears.

Or the two can be combined by apply salicylic acid liquid to the wart before bedtime. After letting it air dry for a minute or so, apply the duct tape over the wart, completely covering the area. Remove the duct tape the following morning. Each time they remove the tape, they are debriding some of the wart tissue. Repeat the application each night, until there is no remaining wart tissue.

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If the above don’t work, then you may wish to see your physician for removal. He can use cryotherapy, using liquid nitrogen to destroy the wart. This method may involve repeated treatment over several weeks. You can do the following to “get the wart ready for removal” and make the cryotherapy more effective:

1. Every night for 2 weeks, clean the wart with soap and water and put 17% salicylic acid gel (one brand name: Compound W) on it.

2. After putting on the gel, cover the wart with a piece of 40% salicylic acid pad (one brand name: Mediplast). Cut the pad so that it is a little bit bigger than the wart. The pad has a sticky backing that will help it stay on the wart.

3. Leave the pad on the wart for 24 hours. If the area becomes very sore or red, stop using the gel and pad and call your doctor's office.

4. After you take the pad off, clean the area with soap and water, put more gel on the wart and put on another pad. If you are very active during the day and the pad moves off the wart, you can leave the area uncovered during the day and only wear the pad at night.

If none of the above work, then your wart my need to be removed surgically. Remember the above all take time, so give them time to work. Even if the wart disappears with any of the above treatments, it may recur later.

American Academy of Dermatology (www.aad.org)