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Dermatology Facts—Warts & Treatment

Warts are skin growths caused by a virus. Warts can grow on any part of the body. Their appearance depends on their location. On the soles of the feet the tissue becomes thickened from the pressure of standing and the warts (called plantar warts) may be flatter. Walking on plantar warts is often painful. Warts have a rough surface on which tiny, dark dots can often be seen. These are not “roots,” but blood vessels which are giving nutrients to the warts.

Warts are common and can be a nuisance. They may bleed if injured. Since warts are caused by a virus, they are contagious, but only to people who are susceptible. Warts may spread on the body or to other children. We don't know why some people get warts while others never get them. There is no way to prevent warts.

People have been trying to cure warts for thousands of years. The "success" of folk remedies for warts is probably due to the fact that warts will often disappear on their own, especially in young children. However, the average time to clearance may be as long as two years, sometimes even longer.


Since we have no medicines which kill the wart virus, there is no single perfect treatment of warts. Most treatments are physical means used to destroy the outer layer of skin that the wart grows on, and thus ridding the body of the wart. This can be done with chemicals such as salicylic acid, by freezing with liquid nitrogen, or with laser surgery.

Newer techniques include trying to stimulate the immune system and clear the warts by mimicking the way our body naturally clears warts, but doing it sooner than it would happen on its own. Examples are Aldara and squaric acid which may be applied at home directly to the wart.

The treatment to be used on your wart depends on its location and size, your type of skin and the judgment of the dermatologist. Sometimes, new warts will form while existing ones are being destroyed. All we can do is treat the new warts when they become large enough to be seen. No matter what treatment is used, warts sometimes fail to disappear or may return weeks or months after an apparent cure. If this happens the treatment may be repeated, or a different method may be used to get rid of the warts.

Sometimes no treatment is the best option. This is often the case for very young children who are not bothered by their warts.

Instructions for At-Home Treatment

MEDIPLAST (40% Salicylic Acid Plasters)

  1. This treatment works best on warts on flat surfaces, such as the bottom of the foot or palm.
  2. Cut the medicated pad to just larger than the size of the wart and apply to dry skin, sticky side down.
  3. Tape over the medicated pad to hold it in place.
  4. Leave medication in place for 1-2 days, then remove. The skin should look white, like “its been in the bath too long.”
  5. Soak the wart for a few minutes in warm water, then remove as much dead skin as you can with a file, a pumice stone, or a callus remover (available in drug stores).
  6. Reapply the medicine and repeat for several weeks.
  7. If the area becomes sore or irritated, stop the treatment for a few days and then resume it.
  8. If you are not sure if the wart is gone, you can also stop the treatment for a few days to see if it re-grows.


  1. Soak the wart(s) in warm water prior to applying the liquid. Dry the skin. Then apply the liquid to cover the wart thinly. Allow this to dry and if possible, cover with a band-aid or tape.
  2. Repeat the treatment daily. When the skin becomes white, like it has been in the bath too long, soak and gently remove as much dead skin as you can with a file, a pumice stone, or a callus remover (available in drug stores).
  3. Repeat the treatment for several weeks.


This treatment works best for warts on the fingers and around the finger nails.

  1. Apply ˝ inch waterproof tape in several layers to the wart, taking care not to cut off the circulations to the fingers.
  2. Blenderm Tape (Made by 3M) works very well, but is hard to find. Other tapes which can work include Duct Tape (available at hardware stores) or other waterproof plastic tapes, available at pharmacies. Try to get ˝ width since it is easier to conform to fingers, especially in children.
  3. The tape should be left on for seven days, and only removed if it is soaked through or falling off, in which case it should be immediately reapplied. After seven days, it should be removed for one day.
  4. This treatment should be repeated again at least two more cycles (for a total of three weeks).

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Santa Rosa

Redwood Family Dermatology
2725 Mendocino Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Phone: 707-545-4537
Fax: 707-545-6726

Monday through Friday 8:30 to 5:00pm by appointment.


Redwood Family Dermatology
555 South Dora Street
Ukiah, CA 95482
Phone: 707-462-3996
Fax: 462-3363

Monday through Thursday:
8:30 to 4:30pm.
Friday: 9:00 to 2:00pm.
Occasional Saturdays.