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Does Duct Tape Remove Warts?
Julie Ann Fenstermaker
October 24, 2008
“Scotch Duct Tapes have been the handyman’s answer to every quick-fix quandary for 75 years,” but is duct tape the dermatologist’s quick-fix to common warts as well? (http://www.3m.com/intl/ca/english/centres/home_leisure/duct_tape/index.html)
Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are noncancerous skin growths that occur in the upper layer of skin. Warts are usually harmless but can be irritating and embarrassing since they most commonly appear on the hands and fingers. The virus generally develops in areas of open wounds, such as hangnails and cuts. http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/common_warts.html
Warts can require multiple treatments in a doctor’s office using methods like cryotherapy and cantharidin. Cryotherapy involves freezing off the wart with liquid nitrogen, and cantharidin is painted on to create a large blister under the wart which is cut off. These techniques can be scary for children, who are the most common sufferers of warts. Parents have turned to a home remedy of duct tape as an alternative to these options, and myth busters are determined to test its effectiveness. http://www.drdaveanddee.com/warts.html
How does duct tape work?
On their website, Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee describe the two theories of how duct tape works to remove a wart. One is that the duct tape’s adhesive qualities remove the contaminated tissue of the wart which can eventually eliminate the virus. The other theory suggests that by “occluding the wart,” the duct tape irritates the skin, causing an immune reaction that clears up the virus. http://www.drdaveanddee.com/warts.html
Duct tape is made of three layers: the top layer is a resilient plastic (polyethelyne), the middle is a fabric mesh, and the bottom layer, which serves as the skin irritant for this purpose, is a rubber-based adhesive. http://www.ducttapeguys.com/DT101/index.html
What is the procedure?
The duct tape technique for removing warts can be used in two ways. The first protocol includes applying salicylic acid to the wart then applying duct tape after the surface dries and leaving it on overnight. This is the “debriding” method. The second routine is to place duct tape on the wart for six days and then soak the wart before filing it down with an emery board or pumice stone. Both of these processes can take a long time, and the downside is a red and soggy patch of skin. http://pediatrics.about.com/od/wartsandchildren/a/warts_duct_tape.htm
What is the scientific evidence?
The hype about duct tape curing warts originates from a study conducted in 2002. The online articles from USA Today, CBS News, and The New York Times all cite the same study conducted by Focht which was published in the October issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The articles intend to inform their readership about the effectiveness of the home remedy. Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee’s website aims to be a “public service to help people educate themselves in order to become informed patients.” Other websites containing information about wart removal with duct tape include open forums where people have shared their success stories and techniques.
The purpose of Focht’s experiment was to evaluate whether the application of duct tape is as effective as cryotherapy for treating common warts. The randomized controlled trial occurred in general pediatric and adolescent clinics at the Madigan Army Medical Center near Tacoma, Washington. The 61 patients (ranging from 3-22 years old) were divided in to two treatment groups. The patients received either cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen applied to each wart for 10 seconds every 2-3 weeks) for a maximum of 6 treatments or duct tape occlusion (applied directly to the wart) for a maximum of 2 months. The duct tape occlusion group kept the duct tape over their wart for six days. The patients would remove the tape and soak the area in water before using an emery board or pumice stone to scrape the spot. The duct tape was reapplied the next morning. The warts were measured at a baseline to determine if there was a resolution. Fifty-one of the patients completed the study: 26 (51%) were treated with duct tape, and 25 (49%) were treated with cryotherapy. Complete resolution of their warts occurred for twenty-two patients (85%) in the duct tape group versus 15 patients (60%) enrolled in the cryotherapy group, indicating a P =.05 by chi-squared analysis). With this evidence, the researchers concluded that duct tape occlusion therapy was significantly more effective than cryotherapy for treatment of the common wart (2002).
The objective of a study by de Haen was to determine the efficacy of duct tape compared with placebo in the treatment of common warts. The participants included 103 children (ranging from 4-12 years old) from 3 primary schools in Maastricht, the Netherlands randomized in a blind placebo-controlled trial. Patients from the first group applied duct tape to the wart for one night a week, and patients from the second group applied a placebo, a corn pad, to the wart one night a week. Both treatments were applied for a six week period. After 6 weeks, complete resolution of the wart occurred in 16% of the children in the duct tape group compared with 6% in the placebo group (P = .12). The diameter reduction of duct tape compared with the placebo was 1.0 mm (P = .02, 95% confidence interval, -1.7 to -0.1). For 7 children (21%) in the duct tape group, a surrounding wart had disappeared compared with 9 children (27%) in the placebo group (P = .79). The researchers concluded that during the six week trial, duct tape had a “modest but nonsignificant effect on wart resolution and diameter reduction” when compared with the placebo group (2006).
A study conducted by Wenner in 2007 was to determine the efficacy of duct tape occlusion therapy for the treatment of common warts in adults. Ninety adults participated in a double-blind controlled clinical intervention trial at the Veterans Affairs medical center. The adults were randomly assigned to receive pads consisting of either moleskin with transparent duct tape or moleskin alone (control group). Both groups of patients were instructed to wear the pads for 7 consecutive days and leave the pad off on the seventh evening. Eighty adults completed the process for two months. Complete resolution of the wart occurred for 21% of the patients in the duct tape group compared with 22% in the control group. The researchers concluded that during the two month trail, duct tape did not have a statistically significant difference compared to moleskin in the treatment of warts in adults.
One problem with the Wenner study is that transparent duct tape was used. This type of duct tape does not contain the same adhesive material as regular duct tape, which could be a factor in its effectiveness. In conclusion, duct tape is a viable option for treating warts. The most successful technique includes occluding with duct tape and filing the wart with an emery board. Before investing in procedures at the doctor’s office, wart sufferers should attempt the home remedy of duct tape.
Advice with Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee. “Wart Removal with Duct Tape.” http://www.drdaveanddee.com/warts.html
American Academy of Dermatology. “Warts.” 2008. http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/common_warts.html
De Haen, M., Spigt, M.G., van Uden, C.J., van Neer, P., Feron, F.J, Knottnerus, A. (2006). Efficacy of duct tape versus placebo in the treatment of verruca vulgaris (warts) in primary school children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 160(11), 1121-1125.
Duct Tape 101. “Everything You Need to Know about Duct Tape.” http://www.ducttapeguys.com/DT101/index.html
Focht, D.R. III, Spicer, C., Fairchok, M.P. (2007). The Efficacy of duct tape versus cryotherapy in the treatment of verruca vulgaris (the common wart). Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 156(10), 971-974.
Iannelli, Vincent. “Duct Tape for Warts.” 2007. http://pediatrics.about.com/od/wartsandchildren/a/warts_duct_tape.htm
Wenner, R., Askari, S.K., Cham, P.M., Kedrowski, D.A., Liu, A., Warshaw, E.M. (2007). Duct tape for the treatment of common warts in adults: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Arch Dermatol, 143(3), 309-313.
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