Warts are small, hard, and rough skin growths slightly lighter than the skin surrounding them. They usually break out on the hands and feet, however, they can also occur on other sites of the body, typically in groups. As ugly and irritating they are, they are not cancerous, but actually caused by an infection with a certain type of HPV (human papillomavirus). You may experience the breakout of warts when your immune system is low, if you suffer from eczema, or by simply using public toilets and showers, or working with meat a lot.
With no treatment, warts will probably go away by themselves after a few months or even years. However, since there are a lot of treatment options, there is absolutely no reason not to use some of them. Common treatments include cryotherapy or the application of salicylic acid to the skin, however, you can also use an over-the-counter silver nitrate in the form of a caustic pencil.
What is Silver Nitrate?
Silver nitrate, otherwise known as the salt of silver, is a burning agent that you can use to eliminate your pesky warts. It is an inorganic compound discovered by Albertus Magnus back in the 13th century. Silver nitrate has proven to be quite effective in the treatment of warts, and it is available in drugstores as an over-the-counter treatment you can pick up anytime. They are usually sold in the form of wooden sticks with 75% silver nitrate and 25% potassium nitrate on the tip.
Silver nitrate sticks allow easy application; however, you should avoid using them on your face or inflamed or broken skin. If your warts are sore, you may also want to avoid using silver nitrate. The studies have shown that silver nitrate treated warts are 43% more effective than a placebo treatment, however, they’ve also shown that occasionally, silver nitrate did leave pigmented scars.
How to Use Silver Nitrate Sticks?
The process of applying the silver nitrate treatment is quite easy. Follow these steps to treat your warts at home.
- File off dead skin on warts very carefully. Make sure you don’t hurt yourself and make the condition worse. You can use a pumice stone or an emery board for this
- When you clear the area, make sure to moisten the tip of the silver nitrate stick or pencil with water. Do not use saliva for this
- Gently and carefully apply the pencil to the wart. Hold in place for one or two minutes
- After a couple of minutes, remove the pencil and cover the wart with a dressing which will protect it from damage and prevent infections
- Keep the dressing on for 24 hours and after that repeat the whole process
The simplest way to use silver nitrate sticks is to follow the instructions on the package itself. Some brands will state that you should treat your warts once a say for a total of 7 days, and others may recommend using the stick three to six times a day with a three-day break in between treatments for a total of one month. Make sure you carefully read the directions for your individual case of warts to prevent unnecessary side effects. Do not share your silver nitrate stick with others as warts are a viral infection that may spread and cause infection on someone else.
As silver nitrate is a chemical compound, there are a few precautions you must take, just like you would when dealing with any chemical substance. Make sure to wear protective equipment if needed, as silver nitrate is highly caustic to the clothing and the skin. Because it is a corrosive substance, you should only apply it to the surface of the skin that needs to be treated. To do this, you can use a barrier such as petroleum jelly or covering the surrounding area to prevent oozing.
It significantly reduces fibroblast proliferation, thus it is not recommended for long term or extensive usage. If you go a little overboard, excess silver nitrate may be neutralized with 0.9% saline and then washed with water.
As some patients report pain or burning sensation during the treatment, consider using medication before the procedure. You can use a topical anesthetic to make the treatment more comfortable.