Warts are a common skin problem. Warts are caused by a virus, the human papilloma virus, that infects the skin. Most warts will resolve spontaneously within a few years, and treatment is therefore not necesssary. Treatment can be difficult and take many months or longer. If your dermatology provider has recommended treatment, you should follow the treatment plan exactly. Do not skip days of treatment.
1. Soak warts for 5 minutes in hot water (no hotter than 110 F). Pat area dry with towel. You may then file down the wart by removing layers of dead skin with a callus file, emory board, or pumice stone. Remember to only use the file or pumice stone on the wart and not on other skin areas in order to prevent spreading the warts.
2. Apply 17% salicylic acid (Duofilm, Compound W, etc) or 40% salicylic acid (Wart Stick) to each wart as directed by your doctor. Wait for the medicine to dry. For the treatment of plantar warts, which occur on the bottom of the feet, your doctor may instead recommend use of a 40% salicylic acid pad (Mediplast) cut slightly larger than the wart.
3. Cover the warts with air-tight white cloth surgical tape. You may also use household duct tape. For warts on fingers, you will need to wrap the tape around the finger to keep the tape in place; do not wrap the tape too tightly as this may impair blood flow to the finger.
4. Repeat the steps above when tape becomes loose (usually every 1-2 days). When the tape is removed, it will pull off dead layers of skin from the wart and the normal skin around it. The skin may look raw. This is normal. If the medicine irritates the skin, do not apply it for 1-2 days, but continue to soak and apply air-tight white cloth surgical tape as directed.
Treatment may take several months. Be patient and follow the treatment plan exactly as directed. Your provider may also recommend in-office treatments such as cryotherapy (freezing) or cantharidin.