The horrible things afflict 10 percent of the population. Fortunately, Warts are seldom serious and about half will vanish without any treatment at all. But for those that persist there are many remedies. Some can be tried at home, but big ugly warts need a doctor’s attention.
There’s a lot of mystery tied up with warts. But we do know that teenagers are the most likely victims. We also know that they are caused by the “papovavirus” which gets into the upper cells of the skin and makes them grow at a quicker rate than the surrounding cells. In a short time this heaps up and a wart is born.
Why some people produce warts, and others do not, why some come and go with or without treatment, and why some seemingly ridiculous forms of treatment are successful, is still beyond our knowledge.
Everybody has his own pet cure. The strange fact is that many of the remedies are spectacularly successful.
Why should juice from the common old backyard thistle cure a wart when applied? Why should rubbing it with a coin (or whatever) get rid of them?
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a special article about warts, so common are they in the community. Lest its doctor readers got carried away with the success of their treatments, the Journal added:
In the treatment of Verrucae (the medical name for warts), the physician must remember their natural history. There is a high incidence of spontaneous resolution (35 to 65 percent), and many warts will disappear without therapy.
For many years, doctors have emphasized the “psychotherapeutic” value of treatment, the right mental approach. Stressing to the patient the positive benefits that will result from the treatment, will often help warts to disappear.
Somehow, via a method we do not understand, the nervous system operating via the brain and nerves, can outwit the virus and make warts reduce in size until they vanish entirely.
The success of granny’s treatments may be attributed to this weird phenomenon. Also, the effects of many forms of treatment may have a similar basis.
There are many different kinds of warts, and the treatment may vary. It depends on how big the wart is, where it is located, what skin coverage it has, its closeness to eyes, nails, the sole of the foot, and other variables.
- Verruca Vulgaris is the commonest kind of wart, occurring on the hands and fingers of adolescents, although any part of the body may be involved. They are round and like little cauliflowers, or papillomatous.
- Filiform warts commonly occur on the eyelids, face, neck, and area between the nose and lips. They are elongated and very thin and may be up to a centimeter long.
- The periungual and subungual warts are real problems. These occur either around fingernails or underneath them.
- Flat warts are common on the face and limbs. They often occur in elongated streaks, and are flat and round and only slightly elevated above the general skin level.
- Plantar warts are well-known. These occur on the soles of the feet. Instead of growing out, they grow in and may be extremely painful. If the wart is gently pared-down, tiny black dots appear in the center. These are blood capillaries, and indicate they are warts and not corns or calluses which look very similar (but have different treatment).
The usual methods of home care are often used before the doctor is consulted. But if these fail, he will probably suggest “desiccation and curettage.” This means a high-frequency electric diathermy needle is applied for a few seconds.
A heat bubble forms and the wart is then curetted (scraped) away with a special instrument. This is very successful, is virtually painless (when done under local anesthetic), but often a scar results. Also, it may remove the skin’s natural pigment and leave a whitish mark in the future.
Another popular method is the application of liquid nitrogen or cryotherapy. This creates a blister that peels off in about 10 days removing the wart and leaving a minimum of scarring.
Salicylic acid in various forms has been used for many years. A simple product is salicylic acid 3.6 parts plus 40 percent alcohol made up to 120 parts. This is applied to warts each night with a cotton wool bud or stick. It must be kept up for some time.
Another method uses 10 percent strengths of lactic, salicylic, and acetic acid in a gummy liquid. This is applied carefully to the wart each night. The next morning it is bathed, and any soft tissue is gently removed. If the wart becomes sore or irritated, treatment must be stopped until the inflammation subsides.
Doctors often use a 40 percent salicylic acid plaster to plantar warts. This is taken off in a week’s time, and softened material removed with a scalpel or scissors. Care is needed.
Medical hypnotherapy is often startling successful in the management of warts. It indicates the enormous nervous system overlay in their production.
In more recent years, tretinoin (vitamin A acid) applied locally has been successful.