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You and Your Wart - Don't Blame a Toad!

Medieval Treatment: "Rub the bacon fat in your pan and hang it under the sun to dry. Like heavy fat, so do your warts." Sir Francis Bacon

In today's age of high-power lasers and magic that have become modern medicine, it may be that no one degrades dermatologists more than mere warts. We monopolize the will with our immune systems, skin and stem cells, shoot lasers into the skin with amazing mic-accuracy. But when it comes to warts, we sometimes feel like cavemen. Warts can occur anywhere in the body, even in the mouth, tongue and genitals. They are the result of a local infection by the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV. You take the virus somewhere in your environment or from other people. There is no evidence of toads that carry HPV despite what you said to you. This virus builds up on your skin and robs your skin. It makes the skin thicker by itself resulting in the typical shiny look we can recognize.

There he sat. It can grow. It can't be. Our immune system has a problem recognizing the virus and no inflammatory attacks have been installed. Most warts can resolve themselves within 6 months to 2 years through mechanisms that are not fully understood. Those little "seeds" that you see in them have small blood vessels. I grew up using the term "seed lineage" but have since found it meaningless. Warts are safe prey. They resisted freezing, burning of chemicals, fires, and even 15th-century bacon stripes. I am convinced that if we look, the bug can be found in the new mummy skin that came out of the earth after 2000 years. HPV is a family of many viruses and has many flavors. Medical students are made to memorize the different strains that contribute to warts on various parts of the body, causing havoc, causing cancer; etc.

The Latin word for warts is verruca, which means small hill; or so I was told by all my Latin speaking friends. Doctors will often diagnose "vulgaris verruca". While the warts may seem harsh to you, they are another Latin term that signifies something familiar. The Romans wrote about warts and were fascinated by genital warts. It was not until the late nineteenth century that doctors realized they were contagious. It even took until the 1950s before the medical community accepted it.

Our treatment today is different from warts themselves but usually involves some form of physical destruction (freezing, burning, chemicals — the things I mentioned where they last!). Evaluating the effectiveness of different treatments is challenging because warts often resolve on their own no matter what they do, or don't do. I have had good success developing the immune system by injecting a small amount of yeast protein into the warts. This usually requires 2-3 treatments but warts often melt.

And yes, the rumor is true, duct tape can be an effective treatment for warts removal. I also used lasers and also injected chemotherapy agents into it. At 25 CE, Celsus proposed using ashes to burn it. He also feels the need to propose to individuals who bite or suck warts from other people's feet. Perhaps the most bizarre thing from parents is when I recommend using daily channel tape to cure warts. It works well ... sometimes. The adhesive causes low grade irritation to the skin. When the immune system moves to clear this irritation, it sometimes kills the leper with collateral damage. At least that's my theory. My patients all like to believe that the tape "pulls the wrist out."

The phrase we often hear is: "We just want them to go for a treatment." Usually this says, because she may have taken the job or enlisted other children to do it. Well, we share that goal. Explaining that it may take some treatment sometimes makes me look unwell from mom. Even though no one has ever said it, I can imagine them thinking that I withheld some therapy, one-shot therapy from their child. Believe me: I can live my whole life happily if I've never treated other warts. I think most doctors secretly share this opinion. Often when the wick arrives at our office, other treatments have failed miserably and parents are ready to "just cut it!" Sometimes I do. Most of the time it's not the best choice because one never knows where the wick ends and normal skin starts. Take too much skin and you're a butcher. Take too little and you're not good enough. That's why I'm only now recommending bacon readings.


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