Treatment of cutaneous warts: an evidence-based review

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2012 Apr 1;13(2):73-96. doi: 10.2165/11594610-000000000-00000.


Cutaneous warts are common skin lesions caused by human papillomavirus infection. Treatment is aimed at relieving the patient's physical and psychological discomfort and at preventing the spread of infection by autoinoculation. Among the available medical and destructive therapeutic options for cutaneous warts, none is uniformly effective or virucidal. Moreover, in most cases their safety and efficacy has not been assessed in double-blind, controlled clinical trials, so that the reproducibility of many of the listed treatments is difficult to evaluate and a possible placebo effect cannot be ruled out. The aim of this article is to describe the outcome of current therapies for each clinical wart type according to evidence-based medicine studies published in the literature. For each clinical form, the existing treatments are classified as first-, second-, and third-line therapy. First-line therapy includes medical treatments (salicylic acid, silver nitrate, glutaraldehyde) that are useful to treat a single wart or a few and/or small common warts of short duration (less than 1 year). If these treatments have failed or are contraindicated, cryotherapy may be considered as second-line therapy. For recurrent or difficult-to-treat lesions, third-line therapy includes a variety of alternative therapeutic options (topical, intralesional, systemic, and physical destruction) that are generally off-label (not US FDA approved), and whose use is limited by drawbacks or adverse effects. From pooled evidence-based medicine data, it is possible to conclude that significantly higher remission rates may be expected only with cryotherapy and salicylic acid used in combination.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cryotherapy / methods
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / therapy*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Salicylic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Warts / therapy*
  • Warts / virology


  • Salicylic Acid