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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Warts are a common viral skin infection caused by human papilloma viruses.  In general warts on the hands and feet are harmless and most resolve on their own.  However, they can cause embarrassment and some discomfort.  There are a couple of over-the-counter (OTC) remedies that work well to treat these kinds of warts.

Infection with HPV occurs with skin-to-skin contact.  Warts are caused by viruses and are passed from person to person.  A common way of contracting the virus is by walking barefoot in public pools, showers etc.

About 30% of warts clear spontaneously in six months and 65% to 78% clear in two years without any treatment.  However, most people would like to resolve warts more quickly than this.  Salicylic acid is a first line OTC option.  This medicine slowly destroys virus-infected skin and may stimulate the immune response of the person infected through mild irritation, which in turn helps clear the infection.  There are a number of salicylic products available.  They range in concentration from 17% to 40%.  A 40% product should be used for plantar warts.  The use of salicylic acid on facial warts is not recommended because of a potential risk of hypo- and hyperpigmentation (skin discolouration).

There is a bit of a regimen to follow with salicylic acid products.  Before treatment the warts should be soaked in warm water for five minutes.  Then, an emery board or pumice stone should be used to remove dead tissue.  The salicylic acid treatment should then be applied.  Treatment may need to be continued for up to 12 weeks. If the wart causes pain, patients can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the discomfort. Examples of OTC salicylic acid wart removal products include Compound W, Dr. Scholl’s Clear away Plantar, and Duofilm Wart Remover.

Cryotherapy (freezing) is another common wart removal treatment. This causes irritation and tissue destruction so that the individual mounts an immune response against the virus.  Doctors typically use liquid nitrogen which freezes tissues to -196ºC.  There are also home cryotherapy systems available.  These contain dimethyl ether and propane (DMEP).  Examples include Dr. Scholl’s Freeze away wart Remover, Or, Compound W Freeze off.  Evidence shows DMEP and liquid nitrogen are fairly similar in efficacy.  After application of cryotherapy a blister is formed under the wart.  The frozen skin and wart falls off after about ten days and reveals newly formed skin underneath.   It is recommended that OTC cryotherapy only be repeated three times usually in ten day intervals.

The use of duct tape as a wart treatment has gained popularity.  By putting duct tape over the wart they think the virus is deprived of oxygen which causes irritation and stimulates the immune response to the virus.  Typical administration involves applying silver duct tape over the wart and removing a week later.  Scrubbing the area with an emery board and leaving it open over night.  Then reapplying duct tape.  Silver duct tape has been shown to be more effective than clear duct tape, possibly because of the adhesive.

There are also a number of prescription products that can be used for warts if OTC treatments are ineffective.  Patients with diabetes should consult their physicians before beginning treatment for their warts.  Also, genital warts must be treated by physicians and are not suitable for treatment with OTC methods.

In general OTC wart treatments are effective, however, it may take several weeks for the wart to be removed.  For proper selection of a treatment method come in and speak to your pharmacist.

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