This topic is for a person who is deciding about whether to treat a common wart or a plantar wart. It is not about genital warts.
Warts are skin growths caused by some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts form when the virus infects the top layer of your skin and causes your skin cells to grow very fast.
Warts can spread when you come in contact with the virus. You can infect yourself again when you touch the warts and then touch another part of your body. You can infect others when you share towels, razors, or other personal items.
You are most likely to get warts in places where your skin is broken, such as through cuts, hangnails, closely bitten nails, or scrapes.
Some types of the virus thrive in warm, damp places, such as showers, locker room floors, and swimming pool areas. Warts that you get on your feet (plantar warts) are common in swimmers whose feet are not only moist and softened, but are also scratched and broken by rough pool surfaces.
You won't get warts every time you come in contact with the virus. But some people are more likely than others to get warts.
Warts are usually harmless. In most cases, they go away on their own within months or years. But if they spread or cause pain, or if you don't like the way they look, you may want to treat them.
There are several ways to treat warts. For example, you can:
If these treatments don't work, you can try putting a medicine on the wart to trigger your immune system to kill the wart virus. Or you can try a medicine called bleomycin that is injected into the wart.
If you have diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, a weakened immune system, or a major illness, talk to your doctor before you use any over-the-counter wart removal products. You may not be able to use them.
The decision to treat your warts is up to you. But you might think about the cost and the time needed to treat them. In most cases, over-the-counter products you can use at home work as well as treatments done in your doctor's office. These home treatments cost less, cause little or no pain, and have a low risk of side effects or scarring. But they may take longer to work.
Treatments for warts don't always work. Even after warts shrink or go away, they may come back or spread to other parts of your body. This is because most treatments destroy the wart but don't kill the virus that causes it.
Studies suggest that:
Other treatments may not work any better than salicylic acid or cryotherapy. You may need to try several different treatments to find one that works for you.
Side effects depend on the type of treatment. But some can cause:
Your doctor might suggest that you treat your warts if:
|Treat your warts||Don't treat your warts|
|What is usually involved?|
|What are the benefits?|
|What are the risks and side effects?|
Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.
These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.
"My 12-year-old son Jeff has warts on several of his fingers. They don't seem to bother him too much, but his sister thinks they are "gross." I think he doesn't want to do anything about them because he likes to tease her. I asked our doctor if there was any reason to treat them. He said there really wasn't and that Jeff would probably outgrow them as he gets older. Our doctor also said to keep in mind that warts are contagious, and Jeff's sister might catch them too."
— Kevin, age 40
"At first I didn't know what the growth on my toe was. I never had warts when I was a kid. But when I kept stubbing it on things and making it bleed, I decided I should probably do something about it. So one day when I was seeing my doctor for something else, I asked her to take a look at it. She said it was definitely a wart and "I can freeze it off right now if you don't mind a little pain, or you can try a nonprescription product that will take longer." I knew I wouldn't stick with the home treatment for more than a few days, so I agreed to the freezing."
— Leslie, age 22
"I was nervous about doing anything like freezing or surgery to the bottom of my foot. I'm on my feet all day at work, and I hated to take a day or two off just to have a wart treated. But my plantar wart was sort of nagging me, so I used a nonprescription product, pads, and a pumice stone for several weeks. It was a slow process, but it gave me an excuse to spend a few minutes in the bathroom by myself every night!"
— Claire, age 50
"Some people think that warts are no big deal, but the warts on my feet have caused all sorts of grief. I've had them burned off and frozen off, tried home treatments, even tried the old banana peel remedy, and they just keep coming back. I know they aren't going to kill me, but they sure are a pain in the neck—make that a pain in the foot! I'm ready to try some injections that the doctor says may work. I have to have them once a week for a couple of months."
— LaMar, age 45
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to treat warts
Reasons not to treat warts
I want to do whatever I can to get rid of my warts.
I want to wait and see if my warts go away on their own.
I don't like the way my warts look.
My warts don't bother me.
I want to prevent my warts from spreading to other people or other parts of my body.
I'm not worried about my warts spreading to other people or other parts of my body.
My warts are in a spot where they cause pain.
My warts don't hurt.
My other important reasons:
My other important reasons:
Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.
Treating my warts
NOT treating my warts
1. Are warts harmful?
2. If warts are bothersome, should they be treated?
3. Do treatments for warts always work?
1. Do you understand the options available to you?
2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?
3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?
1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?
2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.
3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine|