In most cases, warts will clear up without the need for treatment. The amount of time this takes will vary from person to person. In some instances, it can take up to two years for the viral infection to leave the body. In adults and for those with a weakened immune system, warts are less likely to clear up without treatment.
If the wart is causing pain or embarrassment then there are a range of treatments available.
Salicylic acid (e.g. Bazuka Gel): These treatments are available in paints, plasters and gels and do not require a prescription. Before applying salicylic acid, it is recommended to use an emery board or pumice stone to gently file the wart down. It is important not to share emery boards or pumice stones with others, as this can potentially spread the infection. The filing down process should be repeated roughly once a week whilst treating a wart with salicylic acid. Before application, it is recommended to soak the wart in water for about five minutes. This will soften the wart prior to treatment. Salicylic acid should then be applied directly to the wart exactly as instructed in the information leaflet.
Salicylic acid, like other wart treatments, also destroys healthy skin. This makes it important to protect the surrounding skin around the wart(s). Petroleum jelly or corn plasters can be used to cover the skin surrounding the wart.
Salicylic acid may need to be applied every day for up to twelve weeks, or in some cases even longer. If the skin becomes sore or irritated then treatment should be ceased and medical advice should be sought.
Salicylic acid should not be used on the face. If facial warts are present then always seek the advice of a doctor regarding appropriate treatment.
Cryotherapy (e.g. Bazuka Sub-Zero): This line of treatment uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy the affected skin cells. After application, which lasts only a few seconds, a sore blister will develop at the site of the wart. This will then scab over before falling off 7 - 10 days later. Larger warts will usually require repeat applications before they clear up, with a gap of a few weeks between treatments. If cryotherapy hasn’t proved successful within a three month period, continuing treatment is not likely to prove effective.
Cryotherapy is often carried out at doctor’s surgeries, hospitals or skincare clinics. However, not all areas of the country offer this service on the NHS. Home cryotherapy kits, such as Bazuka Sub-Zero, can also be purchased from pharmacies. These treatments can be applied at home by following the accompanying instructions. Home cryotherapy can be a more convenient way to treat warts and verrucas as it normally only requires one to two applications. Home cryotherapy kits should not be applied to the face.
Cryotherapy tends to be recommended for facial warts, as the risk of irritation is lower than when using salicylic acid. Treating facial warts should always be carried out under the care of a doctor as the risk of scarring is higher.
Chemical treatments: Warts can be treated by using certain chemicals, which are available on prescription. These include chemicals such as; formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde and silver nitrate (Avoca). As with other forms of wart treatment, these chemicals are applied directly to the wart and work by killing the affected skin cells. These treatments carry the risk of staining the skin a brownish colour (glutaraldehyde) and burning the skin surrounding the wart (silver nitrate).