Duct Tape For Warts? You Must Be Kidding
Posted on Wed., November 18, 2009
By Stephen Daniels, MD
Still surprising to some, doctors have been using duct tape (yes, the gray kind sold in most grocery and hardware stores) to cure common warts, and even some plantar warts (on the bottom of the foot), for 5-6 years.
The way in which duct tape removes warts is unknown. And the recommended technique for using duct tape for warts varies.
- The common gray duct tape seems to work better than clear duct tape, perhaps because the two types of tape have different adhesives. It's not known if other colors of duct tape, or other types of tape, work as well as gray duct tape.
- Cut a piece of tape that completely covers the wart and a small rim of surrounding skin. For a cluster of wars, cover all of them with the same piece of duct tape. If embarrassed, cover the duct tape with a band-aid.
- Leave the duct tape on for a week, day and night, wet or dry. If the tape comes off, replace it with a new piece as soon as possible.
- After a week, remove the duct tape for 30-60 minutes. In some studies of duct tape for warts, patients soaked the wart in warm water and filed the loose skin from the wart. In my experience however, duct tape therapy is effective without the soaking or filing.
- Replace the duct tape (after leaving off for 30-60 minutes) for another week of 24/7 coverage.
- Repeat the 30-60 minute removal after the second week. If the wart is gone, discard the duct tape.
- If the wart persists, repeat the weekly application for up to eight weeks.
- If the wart still persists, consult your doctor.
Other treatments for warts include the following:
- Over the counter treatments available at the drugstore without a prescription. These include mild acid and freezing treatments. Both can be effective, and may be worth a try.
- Freezing (cryotherapy) by a doctor: The doctor sprays or applies (usually with a Q-tip) liquid nitrogen, which is 250 degrees colder than the over the counter preparation, to the wart for 10-60 seconds. This can be painful, especially near the fingernail. The frozen area, including the wart, will dry up, and usually fall off within three weeks. Sometimes, unfortunately, this treatment will seed a cluster of new warts around the frozen area.
- Electric cautery: The doctor first injects numbing medicine around and under the wart. The doctor then burns the wart using an electric cautery device. The resulting burn forms an ulcer, which should be covered twice a day with antibiotic ointment and a band-aid, will usually heal in 2-3 weeks.
- Applied or injected medicines. There are a variety of medicines your doctor can apply to the wart, separately or in combination, or inject into the wart. These include a resin paint (podophyllum), a chemical found in beetles (Cantharidin), drugs used to treat cancer (Bleomycin, fluorouracil), and drugs to stimulate the immune system (Aldara).
- Surgery. When warts persist despite some or all of the above treatments, surgery by laser or scalpel is usually effective.
Duct tape is effective most of the time. But if not, your doctor has many possible treatments.
Dr. Daniels practices family medicine at the Concord and Pittsburg Health Centers, parts of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department.
Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.