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How can I treat and prevent warts?

Most warts are harmless and may even go away on their own without treatment, but they can be embarrassing and you may want to treat them if they are bothersome or painful. There are a number of ways you can treat warts on your own, or with the help of your doctor:

  • Nonprescription treatments:

    Over-the-counter products, like solutions or patches containing salicylic acid (look for 17% solutions or 15% patches), along with the regular use of a pumice stone and good foot hygiene can be used to treat plantar warts. It may take several weeks for them to go away completely.

  • Freezing (also called cryotherapy):

    Your doctor could treat your warts by applying liquid nitrogen to freeze them. This causes a blister to form around your wart, and eventually the dead tissue (including the wart) falls off. The application of liquid nitrogen can be painful, so your doctor may apply a numbing agent. Cryotherapy can be combined with salicylic acid treatments. There are also nonprescription cryotherapy products available.

The best way to avoid getting warts is to protect yourself from the areas and items where they are spread:

  • Avoid walking barefoot, especially in public places. Wear shower shoes or sandals at the pool or the gym.

  • Change your shoes daily, and keep your feet clean and dry

  • Avoid direct contact with warts, including your own. Don’t pick at any warts you have, and wash your hands carefully after touching your warts.

  • Don’t bite your fingernails

  • Use a disposable emery board, and don’t use the same emery board, pumice stone, or clippers on your warts as you do on your healthy skin and nails