Warts: What Are They and How to Treat Them

Warts … aren’t they awful? One of the scourges of childhood is warts. (Actually, like most childhood viruses they are not limited to children.) They can appear at any age but usually occur during the school years when skin to skin contact is more common. Hands are the most common location but warts on the soles of the feet – called plantar warts – can be particularly bothersome.

Although genital warts have been incriminated in cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men, the common warts found on the hands, feet and elsewhere, have no such potential. They are a benign growths, caused by a virus that usually infects the skin for two to five years. They can multiply and become a problem in people with AIDS or other diseases causing immunosuppression.

Treatment of warts can be a painful and often futile proposition. Dermatologists have a multitude of tools with which to destroy warts including liquid nitrogen, cautery, acids and surgery. Sometimes it is quite successful but, unfortunately, not often enough. When I was in practice, I treated hundreds of thousands of warts. I became convinced that when my treatment worked, it was more luck the talent.

Let me explain. Like all infectious viruses, warts won’t go away and stay away until we have developed resistance. When that happens – which, like I said, takes years – the warts will spontaneously disappear. It was very common in my experience to treat warts repeatedly without any success and yet on occasion, a single treatment of just a few warts made all of them go away. It appeared to me that treatment sometimes enhanced the formation of antibodies and hasten the cure.

Therefore, I devised a technique for patients to immunize themselves. Using an acid, like Wart Be Off�®, I asked the patient to attack only one or two warts, keeping them angry and inflamed. It was my theory that by doing so, the blood stream would pick up virus particles and transport them to the immune system where antibodies would be produced against them. The patient was advised to not overdo the treatment and cause infection or unnecessary pain. The point was to hang in there and persist until the job was done.

Does it work? I can’t really say but given that warts are a self-limited, embarrassing nuisance and not a serious threat to health, I can’t think I was giving bad advice.

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