Believe it or not, duct tape was originally described by the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics as a treatment for Plantar warts on the feet. It works by stripping away the top layer of the wart and suffocates the aerobic virus, which needs air to survive.
Another way duct tape works is in conjunction with medication, by “revving up” the medication you’re putting on the wart because of improved penetration into the skin.
But, sometimes, wart therapy doesn't work at home with duct tape. In those instances, we have plenty of treatment options for plantar warts. The most commonly used treatment is liquid nitrogen to bring the wart down to -50 degrees Celsius, and then immediately rewarm the skin. It gets really cold —like putting your tongue on a flagpole in the winter — the quick transition from freezing to room temperature causes viral particles to lyse (explode). This treatment may cause a small blister afterwards, as the wart bubbles-up and falls off. It takes an average of three sessions to make most warts completely disappear. We space these treatments two weeks apart.
There are many other therapies for wart removal. For example, we can inject a yeast into that area and try to get the immune system to respond to the HPV virus. Other therapies include pulse dye laser that heats up blood vessels that supply the wart.
The most intense treatment is called bleomycin, a treatment wherein we inject a very strong anti-cancer agent into the wart tissue to cause the wart to necrose (die) and fall off. These are among my top therapies for treating warts in our practice.
I can also give you prescriptions to take home with you ranging from over-the-counter treatments like salicylic acid to more advanced therapies, like imiquimod, which causes the immune system to target an HPV-affected area. All of our therapies surround an attempt to irritate the wart area, so that the body's immune system recruits T cells to the wart to target the HPV virus.
It bears mentioning that one of the reasons warts hang around as long as they do is because they’re never harmful to the body. While pesky and annoying to us, warts never harmed anyone. Therefore, the immune system has learned, over time, ignore them. Essentially we must “trick” our immune system into targeting them.