Got a Wart? Your Best Bet Is to Freeze It Off

The most effective way to remove the common wart is to freeze it off with liquid nitrogen, although that method is less successful in treating the ingrown warts on the soles of feet, according to a new study.

Cryotherapy, already a common practice of dermatologists, "is basically freezing the wart" so that it dries up and falls off, said study researcher Dr. Sjoerd Bruggink, a physician at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Warts can be caused by many of the strains of human papillomavirus. Some strains of HPV are sexually transmitted and can cause genital warts and cervical cancer, others cause warts on other parts of the body. Warts on other parts of the body aren't dangerous — they can't turn into cancer as moles can, Bruggink told MyHealthNewsDaily — but they can be more than a nuisance.

"They're most common in children, and they can get bullied, because they're unsightly," he said. "Or it can be annoying because they're painful."

Previously, there had been little research comparing the effectiveness of wart treatments in controlled studies, according to a 2004 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. And a lack of consistency in the way treatments were administered made it hard to come to a conclusion about the effectiveness of wart treatments, according to a 2002 British Medical Journal study.

Research on benign ailments like warts is relatively rare because there's often not a lot of money in it, Bruggink said.

The Dutch researchers tested three approaches to warts in a study involving 240 participants, half of them ages 4 to 12 and the other half ranging up to age 79. Some of the subjects received biweekly cryotherapy, some were treated with a daily application of salicylic acid (an ingredient commonly used to treat acne), and some were told to follow the "wait and see" approach, where no treatment was given.

Of the common warts treated with cryotherapy, 49 percent were cured after three months. Salicylic acid treatment cured 15 percent of the warts, and the wait-and-see approach cured 8 percent.

Common warts can appear on any part of the body but typically occur on the hands.

When it came to treating plantar warts, which are ingrown warts on the calloused soles of the feet and are notoriously hard to treat, neither of the treatment options worked better than the wait-and-see approach, Bruggink said.

Studies are currently being done to determine how warts caused by different types of the virus react to therapies, Bruggink said.

The study was published online in today's (Sept. 13) issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

This article was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.

Amanda Chan
Amanda Chan was a staff writer for Live Science Health. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.