Duct Tape & Wart Removal

Duct Tape & Wart Removal
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Duct tape beat out cryotherapy (freezing) for treating warts in a randomized controlled head-to-head trial.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

When I was reviewing the science behind common over-the-counter remedies used in dermatology, such as tea tree oil for acne or nail fungus, I was surprised to see on the same page a section on duct tape. Duct tape?! The only time I remember seeing duct tape used in a medical study was on the “[i]dentification of the gases responsible for the odor of human [farts],” which involved a collection system comprised of “gas tight pantaloons…sealed to the skin” with duct tape. (That’s the study where they assessed the wind-breaking ability of a cushion called the “Toot Trapper.”)

But what the dermatology journal was talking about is warts. “Duct tape brings out our inventive, slightly kooky side.” “Given this versatility, it wasn’t so surprising a few years ago when a group of doctors…reported that duct tape could get rid of warts.” As I noted in my last wart video, all sorts of strange things are purported to cure warts, because most go away on their own. A thousand kids were followed for two years, and two-thirds of the warts disappeared without doing a thing. So maybe we should just leave them alone—”although there are cases [that] may warrant treatment.” Otherwise, we can just let our own body take care of them.

Warts are caused by wart viruses, and so, spontaneous wart disappearance is assumed to be an immune response, where our body finally wakes up and takes notice. This assumption is based on studies like this, where foreign proteins were injected into the wart itself—like a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine straight into the wart, which compared to placebo, appeared to accelerate the immune clearance process. The problem, of course, is that injections hurt, and 30 percent of the kids that got their warts injected with the vaccine suffered a flu-like syndrome. Yikes! Okay, scratch that. What else do we got?

Within a few months, any placebo treatment will work in about a quarter of the cases. So, if you put duct tape on 100 warts, and 23 went away, that wouldn’t mean much. The traditional medical therapies—acid treatments and freezing treatments—bump the cure rate up to about 50 percent. So, if you were really serious about testing the efficacy of duct tape, you would pit it head to head against one of those. And that’s exactly what happened. “The efficacy of duct tape vs cryotherapy in the treatment of…(the common wart).” Cryotherapy is the current treatment of choice for many pediatricians.

“Objective: To determine if application of duct tape is as effective as cryotherapy in the treatment of common warts.” Patients were randomized to receive either liquid nitrogen applied to each wart, or “duct tape occlusion.” When I heard about treating warts with duct tape, I had this image where they were like trying to rip them off or something. But no; they are just applying a little circle of duct tape every week or so. Here are the details.

Although there had been a few anecdotal reports of using tape, “no prospective, randomized controlled trial had yet [been] performed,” until this study, which found that the duct tape was “not only equal to but [exceeded] the efficacy of cryotherapy,” which worked in 60 percent of the cases. But 85 percent of the duct tape patients were cured—significantly more effective than cryotherapy for treatment of the common wart. More effective, and fewer side effects. “The only adverse effect observed in the duct tape group during our study was a [small] minimal amount of local irritation and [redness]”—whereas cryotherapy hurts.

Oh, you want to hear the saddest thing? “1 young child actually vomited in fear of pain before each [cryotherapy session.]” They were like torturing the poor kid.

Cryotherapy can cause pain, and bloody blisters that can get infected, and mess up your nail bed.

So, duct tape: more effective, fewer side effects, and more convenient. Compare applying a little duct tape at home to making multiple clinic visits, dragging the poor kid back every two weeks. I mean it’s like a win-win-win.

Duct tape can now be “offered as a nonthreatening, painless, and inexpensive technique for the treatment of warts in children.” I mean, how much does a little piece of duct tape cost? So, it’s like a win-win-win-win. Ah, but the money you save is the money the doctor loses. There’s no way the medical profession is going to just let this go unchallenged. Further studies were performed, and failed to show an effect, and so we end up in the medical literature with conclusions like this: “Is duct tape effective for treating warts?” “Bottom line? No.”

Huh. Is duct tape really not effective after all, or was there some kind of critical design flaw in the follow-up studies? We’ll find out, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Maximilian via Adobe Stock Photos. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

When I was reviewing the science behind common over-the-counter remedies used in dermatology, such as tea tree oil for acne or nail fungus, I was surprised to see on the same page a section on duct tape. Duct tape?! The only time I remember seeing duct tape used in a medical study was on the “[i]dentification of the gases responsible for the odor of human [farts],” which involved a collection system comprised of “gas tight pantaloons…sealed to the skin” with duct tape. (That’s the study where they assessed the wind-breaking ability of a cushion called the “Toot Trapper.”)

But what the dermatology journal was talking about is warts. “Duct tape brings out our inventive, slightly kooky side.” “Given this versatility, it wasn’t so surprising a few years ago when a group of doctors…reported that duct tape could get rid of warts.” As I noted in my last wart video, all sorts of strange things are purported to cure warts, because most go away on their own. A thousand kids were followed for two years, and two-thirds of the warts disappeared without doing a thing. So maybe we should just leave them alone—”although there are cases [that] may warrant treatment.” Otherwise, we can just let our own body take care of them.

Warts are caused by wart viruses, and so, spontaneous wart disappearance is assumed to be an immune response, where our body finally wakes up and takes notice. This assumption is based on studies like this, where foreign proteins were injected into the wart itself—like a measles-mumps-rubella vaccine straight into the wart, which compared to placebo, appeared to accelerate the immune clearance process. The problem, of course, is that injections hurt, and 30 percent of the kids that got their warts injected with the vaccine suffered a flu-like syndrome. Yikes! Okay, scratch that. What else do we got?

Within a few months, any placebo treatment will work in about a quarter of the cases. So, if you put duct tape on 100 warts, and 23 went away, that wouldn’t mean much. The traditional medical therapies—acid treatments and freezing treatments—bump the cure rate up to about 50 percent. So, if you were really serious about testing the efficacy of duct tape, you would pit it head to head against one of those. And that’s exactly what happened. “The efficacy of duct tape vs cryotherapy in the treatment of…(the common wart).” Cryotherapy is the current treatment of choice for many pediatricians.

“Objective: To determine if application of duct tape is as effective as cryotherapy in the treatment of common warts.” Patients were randomized to receive either liquid nitrogen applied to each wart, or “duct tape occlusion.” When I heard about treating warts with duct tape, I had this image where they were like trying to rip them off or something. But no; they are just applying a little circle of duct tape every week or so. Here are the details.

Although there had been a few anecdotal reports of using tape, “no prospective, randomized controlled trial had yet [been] performed,” until this study, which found that the duct tape was “not only equal to but [exceeded] the efficacy of cryotherapy,” which worked in 60 percent of the cases. But 85 percent of the duct tape patients were cured—significantly more effective than cryotherapy for treatment of the common wart. More effective, and fewer side effects. “The only adverse effect observed in the duct tape group during our study was a [small] minimal amount of local irritation and [redness]”—whereas cryotherapy hurts.

Oh, you want to hear the saddest thing? “1 young child actually vomited in fear of pain before each [cryotherapy session.]” They were like torturing the poor kid.

Cryotherapy can cause pain, and bloody blisters that can get infected, and mess up your nail bed.

So, duct tape: more effective, fewer side effects, and more convenient. Compare applying a little duct tape at home to making multiple clinic visits, dragging the poor kid back every two weeks. I mean it’s like a win-win-win.

Duct tape can now be “offered as a nonthreatening, painless, and inexpensive technique for the treatment of warts in children.” I mean, how much does a little piece of duct tape cost? So, it’s like a win-win-win-win. Ah, but the money you save is the money the doctor loses. There’s no way the medical profession is going to just let this go unchallenged. Further studies were performed, and failed to show an effect, and so we end up in the medical literature with conclusions like this: “Is duct tape effective for treating warts?” “Bottom line? No.”

Huh. Is duct tape really not effective after all, or was there some kind of critical design flaw in the follow-up studies? We’ll find out, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Maximilian via Adobe Stock Photos. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

This is the first in a three-video series on duct tape for wart removal. Stay tuned for Can You Really Remove Warts with Duct Tape? and Which Type of Duct Tape Is Best for Wart Removal?

I never heard of using duct tape for warts until I was researching other dermatological remedies, like the ones found in Benzoyl Peroxide vs. Tea Tree Oil for Acne, Does Tea Tree Oil Work for Nail Fungus?, and Benefits of Tea Tree Oil for Warts & Cold Sores.

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