By Suzanne Vickers, PA-C

Warts are one of the most common conditions I see in our practice, which makes sense because, at some point in our lives, most of us have experienced one or many warts. And while they are common, we still get the questions: what are they, and why are they so hard to treat? So let’s take a closer look. 

First, What Are They?  

Warts are benign growths that can be found just about anywhere on the body.  I commonly see them on the soles of the feet (plantar warts) and on the hands.  They are typically between a greyish color and a flesh color and include black dots that resemble seeds—and this is where they get the common nickname, “seed” warts. The black dots are not actually seeds but blood.  Many warts are asymptomatic, but in areas like the soles of the feet, they can be very painful. 

What Causes Warts?

Warts are caused by a viral infection called Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, which is transmitted through physical touch. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and it’s important to understand that warts are contagious, but everyone’s immune system responds differently. 

Why is Treatment So Difficult?

Getting rid of warts can be very difficult, and that’s because we don’t currently have anything to kill the virus. There are numerous treatments for warts, like medication, freezing, and even minor surgery, but not a one of them actually kills the virus. And since there isn’t a way to kill the virus, many of the treatments rely on boosting the immune system as a way to help your body get rid of the virus on its own.

What Are The Treatment Options?

Usually, patients try over-the-counter methods like salicylic acid and freezing devices, and sometimes, they work. When patients come into the office with warts, we usually freeze it with liquid nitrogen and recommend OTC salicylic acid or topical compounds in between freezing sessions. 

If these treatments don’t work, there are injectable medications used to fight the virus.  The 2 most commonly used in our office are Candida (yeast) and the MMR vaccine. These are injections directly into the warts, usually in a series of 3 or 4. In fact, a recent study showed that the MMR vaccine could even be considered a first line of defense against warts because of its high clearance rates. Other treatment options are laser, directed at cutting off blood supply and simply shave removal. 

Seeking treatment for warts in the Birmingham or Tuscaloosa area? Contact Cahaba Dermatology today to set up an appointment.