Home Treatments: Wart removal

Ah, the dreaded and unsightly wart. They can happen to anyone, at any time. I know that if you go to see an HCP, the will suggest getting it burned off in the office, but there are other options and some things that you can try at home to save yourself the co-pay and the time of getting to the office!

Why do we get warts?

All warts (which are flesh-colored, cauliflower like growths on the hands and feet) are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) when they occur in your genital region, it’s a different ballgame because they can be sexually transmitted, but warts that occur elsewhere on your body are usually not sexually transmitted, but you can get them through a cut, scrape or opening of the skin. For example, people who bite their cuticles (the skin around the nailed) a lot tend to get warts, mostly because we touch a lot of things with our hands daily, and with openings in the skin, you have the perfect source for infection. Usually, with a normally working immune system, your body will kill off the wart within a six-month timeframe (roughly) anyway, but for young children, older adults, and those with weakened immune systems due to chronic disease or medications that cause immunosuppression.


Neat.  How do I get rid of these warts faster?

If you are interested in the warts leaving sooner than your body might get rid of them, then here are some tricks that you can try at home:

*Please be certain that what you think is a wart, IS actually a wart, and if you are not sure, seek expert consultation.

Duct Tape: (This is based on a study in 2002 published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine which found a high rate of non-return of warts and fast removal) Place a piece of duct tape over the wart and leave it for 6 days, if it falls off then replace it. At the 6 day mark, soak the wart until it is soft and file with an emery board, then replace the duct tape. Repeat until the wart is gone.

Salicylic Acid: (sold commercially as Compound W or Dr. Scholl’s clear away and studies have found it to be just as effective as burning them off) You will need to soak the wart to soften the tissue to allow the medication to penetrate it; apply before bed at night and wash off in the morning, then reapply for the daytime. Once or twice a week, file the area with a pumice stone (or a nail file), but don’t use it on any other area as the active HPV cells could possibly infect another area. Repeat this process for however long it takes for the wart to disappear (can take 2-3 months).

Cryotherapy: (can be performed at your HCPs office, but now available for Over-the-Counter use as Dr. Scholl’s Freeze away) You combine two different chemicals onto an applicator, hold the applicator to the wart for around 20 seconds, then remove. The color of the wart will change, burn a bit, and the wart should fall off in 10 to 14 days.  If  it does not, then you can repeat the treatment.

**There are other methods such as using a banana peel or rubbing a bean against the wart to remove them, but there is no scientific proof that these methods work.

As I said earlier, you want to make sure that you are actually treating a wart, and use whatever method works for you. Obviously the duct tape method takes longer, but it is also a very cheap method to treat/remove warts. And the priciest and fastest method is the cryotherapy. Use whatever works for you, and if nothing you try is working, then you may have to go see your HCP for a more intense treatment.

Yours in Good Health


Do you have Fordyce Spots?

There are spots that occur on different places of the body, and cause a lot of stress when they are found under your belt.  I get a LOT of questions and pics sent to me with people very concerned that they have various Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), depending on what they have recently performed an internet search on. Some should cause some serious concern and some are benign.  Fordyce spots can occur inside your lips on your oral mucosa, or on the shaft of your penis, or on your labia.  I totally understand the freak out that it might be genital warts, or something else, so you should go get tested and assessed, but this is a little information to ease your worry before you get your results!

What are Fordyce Spots?

They are small, painless bumps that are 1cm to 3 cm in size and they can either be skin toned, white, or a little pink/red in color.  As I stated before, they are commonly found in on the inside of the lips, on the shaft of the penis or scrotum, and on the labia, and they are really a common occurrence, but occur more with age. Usually you only notice them when you see or feel them, but at times they can be a little itchy. They occur because the sebaceous glands, the oil glands associated with hair follicles normally that secrete sweat and oils, instead of being inside of the epidermal layer (deeper in the skin) are more superficial, and close to the outer layer of skin, making them very visible. These glands fill with oil, and there is no hair shaft for them to leave the skin, so they are basically little oil filled cysts. That’s it. They are not known to lead to a disease or are not a sign of cancer or any other virus/disease, but they just tend to be a visual disturbance for some people…and their partners.

fordyce 2fordyce 1

What can I do if I have them?

If you go to your Healthcare Provider (HCP), and get diagnosed with Fordyce Spots, they will give you some options for treatment, if it really is bugging you from a cosmetic standpoint, because they are not detrimental to your health in any way. And, they usually go away without treatment on their own. But healthy diets including Vitamin A, B, D, E, and K can usually help them from forming, and go away faster when you have them, so basically, if you get Fordyce spots, take a multivitamin daily and it can help to prevent them.  Good hygiene including exfoliation and moisturizer can help to decrease them from forming (so that your body doesn’t produce excess oil; this works on both the lips and the genitals), and there are some reports that people with either eat more garlic or take garlic supplements have a lower rate of the spots.  Your HCP may prescribe Trentinoin cream, which is a cream that can basically makes the cells replenish faster, so you ave never skin cells forming, which can prevent the skin from getting clogged up with oils. But, again, the only treatment you may need is time.

All of this being said, you do need to get checked out by your HCP if you do have any new skin issues, especially in your genitals, and you are sexually active, you really need to make sure that it is something benign and not Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the form of genital warts, herpes, or any other Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). Get yourself checked out to be on the safe side, but also realize that every bump isn’t contagious or infectious!

Yours in Good Health


It’s that time for itchy, dry skin: it may be more than just dry skin!

I was recently asked by a reader about dry, itchy, scaly skin around and in the ears. This is  a pretty common occurrence and can happen around the change of seasons, or when we start to go into these colder months, and it is usually at its worst during the winter.  So what is this affliction?  Seborrheic dermatitis. And it is pretty simple to clear up, and once you know the signs, you can prevent it from happening in the future!

What is Seborrheic Dermatitis?

It is a common skin disorder causing red, itchy, scaly, dry skin, which can cause dandruff (flaking of the skin). It’s really uncomfortable, and doesn’t look amazing, but it doesn’t have any long-term effects or cause any other health issues. It usually occurs on your scalp but it can be found anywhere on the body there are a high number of sebaceous (oil) glands (i.e. between eyebrows, chin, nose,ears, groin area, & chest.) Also, it is NOT contagious, so rest assured that you cannot “give” this skin issue to anyone else!

What are the symptoms?

Well, it usually occurs in areas of high oil glands (head, chest, ears, eyebrows, chin, nose, groin, scrotum, or armpits), and has a red, dry, scaly appearance.  But it can vary on people, so some of the symptoms you might see are:

– Inflammation with redness of the skin

– Dandruff (flakes of skin) on your head, in eyebrows, beards/mustaches, etc.

– Red greasy patches of skin (scaly) that are covered in white flakes or yellow scales

– The areas can be sore, itchy, or feel raw (or a mixture if you scratch because it’s itchy it can become raw then sore)

– Crusts can appear on the scalp too

The most important thing to remember is that it can be a chronic condition that comes and goes, periods of inflammation, which usually occur with the change of seasons, and are worse in the cold weather months.

What causes it and how can I treat it?

It is sometimes caused by a (yeast) fungus that is naturally occurring in our sweat/oils called Malassezia, so it is basically a yeast infection of the skin, but with our own normal bacteria. So Over-The-Counter (OTC) treatments such as lotions/creams with an antifungal such as, ketoconazole (the same antifungal treatment for athlete’s foot or ringworm- like Lotrimin) will help to kill off the fungus and make the symptoms go away. It tends to occur more frequently in winter months for some reason, people with Parkinson’s disease tend to have a higher frequency of seborrheic dermatitis (it is not really understood why), and people with HIV/AIDS tend to get outbreaks more frequently (possibly due to a decreased immune response) and they have much more severe cases. Times of high stress can cause seborrheic dermatitis to occur as well, even if you have never had a problem with it before. Severe cases may need to be treated with Lamisil, an oral antifungal that is very strong and needs to be taken usually for a couple of months,and you need to abstain from alcohol. If it is merely itching and inflammation, you can use a hydrocortisone cream on top of the rash. Also, using medicated anti-dandruff shampoos that contain zinc pyrithione (in head and shoulders) or coal-tar (in Neutrogena T/Gel) on the affected areas can help.  My suggestion is to use the medicated shampoos on the areas, and merely dry yourself after bathing, pat dry but don’t vigorously rub at your skin with the towel, and apply the topical creams (if needed).  Start low and go slow is a good motto, try one treatment at a time, then add the others in slowly if you aren’t seeing results. Unfortunately, the reason that it occurs is not well-known, so if you get it, bummer, but at least you know how to treat it!

How is it diagnosed?

Your HCP will ask you about symptoms, where and when it occurs, if you have changed detergents/soaps/products recently to rule out that it is an allergic reaction to a new product.  They will also perform an assessment on your scalp, and areas affected by the rash, to diagnose it.  If they are not certain, based on physical assessment, of the diagnosis, they may do a biopsy, and when I say biopsy, I really mean a skin cell scraping; they just need to look at a few cells under the microscope to ensure that you do not have psoriasis or eczema instead (sometimes the rashes can mimic one another).

If you are diagnosed with seborrheic dermatitis, most likely you will be encouraged to try OTC treatments first, but there are prescription shampoos and creams that you may need to use, so tell your HCP if you have tried various OTC treatments and they just haven’t helped.  Also, remember to avoid harsh soaps/detergents, you may want to switch to sensitive skin/hypoallergenic products to prevent skin irritation.  If you have a mustache/beard/facial hair, shave it off; the more hair, the more oils that will be caught on your skin, and with hair there, it is tough to get the medication to have direct contact with the skin.  Also try to wear breathable fabrics, if you get the issue in your armpits, groin, chest; cotton allows for more air flow, and hopefully less sweating!  The best thing you can do is treat it when it comes, work with your HCP to find a medication regimen that works for you, and learn the warning signs that your skin gets before the rash erupts so you can start to preemptively treat it, and hopefully prevent the rash from getting into full swing!  And who knows, maybe we will start to learn why this rash occurs, until then, just learn your skins signals!!

Yours in Good Health



Is that a Zit, Cyst, or Furuncle??

I am sure that many of you have seen some of the videos on YouTube with people “popping” enormous “zits” with handfuls of pus come out. Despite the allure and excitement that all of you seem to have with these videos, they are actually not zits…most often they are furuncles!  And, again, I totally get the excitement of wanting to squeeze those suckers, they should actually be seen by an HCP and treated.  How do you know the difference between a zit, cyst, and furuncle?  Read on my friends, we can figure out the difference, what should be seen by an HCP, why, and what you can feel free to squeeze and post to YouTube all on your own!

What is the Difference Between a Zit and a Cyst?
So a zit (AKA a blemish, pimple, spot, acne, etc) is the result of excess oil getting trapped in your pores, along with the naturally shedding skin cells, glue together and cause blockages, leading to a pustule/whitehead/zit, and they are very superficial.  As we all know, acne is usually treated with over the counter medications that help to kill off the bacteria that can pool and cause the inflammation, as well as face washes that dry up the oil production.  A cyst is a bit of a different beast; they are enclosed structures filled with either gasses, liquids, or semi-solid substances (i.e. pus) that are under the skin, within your organs, etc. When I am referring to cysts here, I am talking about the kind that are just under the surface of your skin, but fully enclosed, not the ones that you might have in your ovaries, bladder, etc, purely talking superficial sebaceous cysts.  These cysts can be caused by infection, a blockage of a duct (causing a fluid build up), an inflammatory process, or just genetic bad luck!  Usually you feel an abnormal lump underneath the skin, and that is a cyst; not painful, just a lump that is there, more annoying than anything.  The treatment of cysts really depend on the size, where they are, and how annoying they are for you; but they either need to be lanced (opened up with a scalpel) and drained UNDER STERILE CONDITIONS, then treated with antibiotics and left as is to close on their own or they can be packed with gauze to help drain any excess fluids from the area.  Sometimes, depending on placement, they need full surgical removal (usually for deeper cysts), and, again, treatment with antibiotics.

What is a Furuncle?
A furuncle is also known as a boil, which is an infection (usually due to Staphylococcus aureus) of an entire hair follicle and the surrounding skin areas, and are usually caused by staph infections.  The skin goes from tender, pink, warm skin to firmer, and then you can feel a lump under the skin (not much unlike a cyst).  The main difference is that the bigger a furuncle gets, the more painful it gets, until that fluid/pus it is filled with is released; sometimes they open on their own, or they should be opened by an HCP (again under sterile conditions!)  Also, you may feel tired, have a fever, or get some itching over the site before the furuncle is visible, which is another difference between a zit or a cyst. Occasionally, but rarely, they will heal on their own, but most often they need to be opened by an HCP, under sterile conditions, especially if they continuously come back, are near your spine, on your face, or cause general health symptoms like fatigue and fevers, because you are at a high risk for having a generic systemic infection that can be deadly, known as sepsis.  Plus, if you open these on your own and they don’t fully empty and heal well, they can spread and grow larger and in different places. Plus, something that is opened by a non-professional that doesn’t heal well can cause scarring. Yikes!

draining furuncle



Is There Anything I Can Do to Prevent Cysts and Furuncles?
Good hygiene like showering every day can go a long way (not just for preventing infections, but to keep people from steering away from you due to stench), wearing clean clothes (especially changing clothes after/between workouts), and using antibacterial soaps can help to prevent bacteria from growing and thriving on your skin.  And good hand washing also is really imperative in preventing infections (all sorts) but Staph is lurking everywhere, and washing your hands before touching anything on your skin (especially if the skin is open, even if you can’t see it like cracked winter dry skin) can really help to prevent bacteria from embedding in your skin and creating infectious processes.  If you have a furuncle, then do not share towels or wash cloths with anyone because you can spread the Staph infection, and same advice if you have a cyst that has been opened or a zit that you “popped”.  It is really important to make sure that we are keeping all wounds clean and preventing infections at any cost.

So, What Can I Pop?
Honestly, every dermatologist out there would kill me for this one, but the only thing I will tell you is that you can pop a zit at home….I know, nothing YouTube-able, sorry! Even popping zits is really bad because it can cause long-term damage and scarring, and you might not completely empty the pore and cause a larger infection, but it is the best of the three worst choices you have 🙂 I cringe seeing those videos thinking about the risk those people are putting themselves at for further infections, sepsis, necrotizing fasciitis, or death. It may seem fun to “pop” such boils/cysts and see all that pus come out, for those of you into that (which, I’m not gonna lie, I get intrigued…but I use self restraint!!)  I see people on the street with huge furuncle, and I want to pounce, but I don’t….and I’m asked to pop it, I tell them to get it done in their HCPs office.  Sorry dudes and dudettes, keep your hands away from those cysts and furuncles, but have at it with those whiteheads, and you can damn me about not squeezing those tempting larger sacs of pus, but you’ll thank me when you aren’t raging with infection, scarred, or dead 🙂

Yours in Good Health