Warts often go away without treatment. But even if your warts have disappeared or have been removed, you can still harbor HPV and may transmit the virus to others.
Medications to eliminate warts are typically applied directly to the lesion and usually take many applications before they are successful. Examples include:
- Salicylic acid. Over-the-counter treatments that contain salicylic acid work by removing layers of a wart a little bit at a time. Salicylic acid is for use on common warts. It can cause skin irritation and isn't for use on your face.
- Imiquimod (Aldara, Zyclara). This prescription cream may enhance your immune system's ability to fight HPV. Common side effects of imiquimod include redness and swelling at the application site.
- Podofilox (Condylox). Another type of topical prescription, podofilox works by destroying genital wart tissue. Podofilox may cause pain and itching where it's applied.
- Trichloroacetic acid. This chemical treatment burns off genital warts and may cause local irritation.
Surgical and other procedures
If medications don't work, your doctor may suggest one of the following procedures, which physically remove warts by:
Sept. 16, 2014
- Freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy)
- Burning with an electrical current (electrocautery)
- Surgical removal
- Laser surgery
- Markle W, et al. Sexually transmitted diseases. Primary Care Clinics: Office Practice. 2013;40:557.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed July 8, 2014.
- Castle PE. The life cycle, natural history, and immunology of human papillomaviruses. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Warts. The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic_disorders/viral_skin_diseases/warts.html. Accessed July 10, 2014.
- Genital HPV infection: Fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- New guidelines for cervical cancer screening. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/pfs004.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20140719T1123120163. Accessed June 21, 2014.
- Reichman R. Epidemiology of human papillomavirus infections. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Goldman L, et al. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Bolognia JL, et al., eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Mulhem E, et al. Treatment of nongenital cutaneous warts. American Family Physician. 2011;84:288.
- HPV vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/vaccine.html. Accessed July 11, 2014.
- Muller LR, et al. Prophylactic papillomavirus vaccines. Clinics in Dermatology. 2014;32:235.
- Crowe E, et al. Effectiveness of quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine for the prevention of cervical abnormalities: Case-control study nested within a population based screening programme in Australia. BMJ. 2014;348:g1458.
- Luna J, et al. Long-term follow-up observation of the safety, immunogenicity, and effectiveness of Gardasil in adult women. PLoS One. 2014;8:e83431.
- Nsouli-Maktabi H, et al. Incidence of genital warts among U.S. service members before and after the introduction of the quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine. MSMR. 2013;20:17.