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Waging War on Warts

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Warts are both common and confounding. Common because there are more than 100 different types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes them, according to familydoctor.org. The most common form of HPV causes warts on the skin of your hands and fingers. Other strains can cause warts on your genitals, rectum, the bottoms of your feet and even inside your mouth.

Even the common warts that arise on your hands and fingers can be confounding to deal with. Because they’re viral in origin, warts are contagious. You can spread them to other areas of skin and to other people. And while some people seem to have built-in resistance to warts, for others the troublesome, rough little bumps appear over and over.

If you discover a common wart popping up, chances are you’ll want to do battle. Many people find them unsightly, and sometimes they can hurt and bleed when disturbed. Even if a wart doesn’t bother you too much, getting rid of it can help stop it from growing or spreading.

Fortunately, most warts can be banished with over-the-counter medications containing salicylic acid (Compound W may be the best-known). If you follow the instructions and have patience, there’s a good chance this approach will work for you. You may be able to hasten the process by scraping at the dead surface cells with a file.

If drugstore solutions don’t appeal to you, there’s no harm in trying home remedies. Some people recommend grinding up an aspirin (similar in chemical makeup to salicylic acid) and bandaging it over the wart. Others advocate covering the wart with duct tape. There’s plenty of discussion about whether these two ideas actually work, but at least they’re not harmful.

When you aren’t successful conquering warts on your own, seeing a dermatologist is the next step. Your doctor will have more weapons at his or her disposal, including chemical treatment, liquid nitrogen for freezing, tools for burning and cutting and lasers. For extreme cases, you may even need medication that attacks the HPV virus itself.

You should definitely see a doctor when you have warts that spread rapidly or if you discover you have genital warts.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.