Everything NPs Need to Know about Treating Warts with Duct Tape

I don't think I've ever used duct tape for its intended purpose. Rather, the several rolls knocking around my garage serve to keep a broken freezer door sealed, a chronically crooked picture frame straight on the wall, and a well loved inflatable pool toy from leaking air. While repair purposes are the most common function for the household essential, duct tape has occasionally appeared as a star on the medical front as well. Survivalists praise the adhesive for its utility when it comes to preventing blisters or splinting sprains, strains, and fractures. A few years ago, duct tape also made a name for itself in the wart removal business. 

While I had heard that duct tape could be used to remove pesky warts, I had never suggested the option to my patients, instead using traditional cryotherapy treatment. Today, however, I have read up on the research surrounding removal of warts with duct tape (yes, this has been researched by academics). Here's the scoop on the home remedy. 

How effective is duct tape in the treatment of warts?

The treatment, originally published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine in 2002, is actually more effective than cryotherapy, the standard medical treatment for warts. In the study, 51 patients between the ages of 3 and 22 with warts received either liquid nitrogen applied to each wart for 10 seconds every 2-3 weeks for a maximum of 6 treatments, or duct tape applied directly to the wart for a maximum of 2 months. 85 percent of the patients in the duct tape group had complete resolution of their warts compared with 60 percent in the cryotherapy group. Duct tape occlusion therapy was demonstrated to be significantly more effective than cryotherapy for treatment of warts. 

How should I instruct my patients to use duct tape to treat warts?

To use the duct tape method for wart removal, patients should cover the wart with silver duct tape for six days. The tape should be removed on the sixth day, and the area soaked in warm water. Then, the wart should be gently debrided with an emery board or pumice stone and left exposed for 12 hours. The wart is then covered again with duct tape and the process repeated until resolution. Warts that begin to respond to treatment within the first two weeks are the most likely to reach resolution with duct tape therapy. 

How does it work?

Researchers theorize that the application of duct tape irritates the skin resulting in an immune response leading to wart resolution. This theory is supported by the observation that, in some instances, untreated warts in surrounding sites also resolve without direct duct tape application. Stimulated immune response is also the proposed mechanism for the efficacy of cryotherapy treatment. The exact mechanism by which duct tape affects warts is not completely understood. 

Does the kind of duct tape used affect outcome?

The type of duct tape used for occlusion has not been widely studied. In one study, however, researchers used transparent duct tape. The tape contained an acrylic based adhesive rather than the rubber-based adhesive used on silver duct tape. The study with transparent tape did not demonstrate duct tape occlusion to be as effective as previous trials. The type of adhesive may be integral to therapeutic effect. 

Occlusive therapy with duct tape is a cost effective, low risk option for treatment of warts in many patients. The treatment can be managed at home saving patients time and money. 

Have you recommended occlusive duct tape treatment to your patients for the treatment of warts?

 

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Comments

Duct tape is a good option to deal with warts. It is the wonderful remedy for warts and can be attempted at home. I had about 5 warts on my hands that I had various medications but nothing worked. Then I tried duct tape on my warts. It really was effective and I was able to remove them. Thanks for sharing.

I find 10 seconds of cryotherapy for a wart is much too short.

Mike

The one study from 2002 has been refuted by at least two other ( 2006, 2007) randomized controlled study showed no evidence of benefit from duct tape therapy.

Steve H