Interesting New “Treatment” to “Remove” Common Warts

Anyone who has ever had a wart (for the purpose of this article we will be discussing “common warts”), or had to treat someone who had a wart, knows how difficult they can be to deal with.  There are a number of different modalities currently available (ranging from creams to freezing agents), but unfortunately warts often persist despite numerous attempts at treatment.  On a more positive note, it should be noted that if “untreatable”, warts will often resolve on their own in one to two years. 

Unfortunately, one to two years can be a long time for people to deal with this problem.  Although not life threatening, many people suffer a great deal of distress and anguish related to the presence of their wart(s).  Many people feel extremely embarrassed about their appearance, and depending on the size and location, warts can actually be very painful.  With that in mind, many people are desperate to find some sort of effective treatment/cure. 

Which brings me to the topic of this blog…

The topic of a lecture I attended last week was dermatology.  Contained within this topic was a discussion related to warts (specifically “common warts”).  During the presentation/discussion  the information presented above was discussed in greater detail.  Upon reaching the topic of treatment, the discussion revolved around the difficulties with treating warts.   At this point, a fellow student mentioned that she knew of a “holistic practitioner” in the city that “makes warts vanish by means of purchasing them”.  Further explanation revealed that this gentleman claims to have “powers/abilities” (apparently his power is to “remove” warts by “non-physical intervention”). 

Apparently, this “holistic practitioner” claims that if you give him a “small donation” he can treat/remove your warts for you.  The donation must be more than a penny but no more than a few dollars or else his “powers/abilities” will not work.     

To say the least I was…amused by this bit of information.

I attempted to further question the student that brought this issue up, but unfortunately the information that the student had was second hand information obtained from patients that she had treated in clinic.  She was unable to provide me this “practitioner’s” actual name or contact info (although at my request she is going to attempt to get the info for me).


Were to begin…

After my professor heard the above information, I expected to hear something along the lines of “some people will try anything”, laugh it off and then continue on with the lecture.  Instead, she addressed the class and stated, “If the patient feels that he/she has gotten some sort of benefit, and no harm comes of the treatment, then what is the harm?”.  My jaw nearly hit the floor!  The harm in believing that this “holistic practitioner” is able to “remove warts” promotes pseudo-science and magical thinking.  Placing this practitioner’s “treatment” next to legitimate medical treatment modalities gives the “holistic practitioner’s treatments” credibility that are simply not warranted.  I would also argue that patients that think that they have been “cured” by a “holistic practitioner” (such as the one described above) are more likely to seek these type of individuals out when they have a more serious/life threatening illness (my own anecdotal evidence from numerous clinical experiences supports this), which can lead to unnecessary illness, pain, suffering and even death.  As healthcare professionals (and skeptics) it is our duty to help educate people to avoid the pitfalls of flawed logical that lead to the belief that practitioners have “powers/abilities” that make them capable of performing “treatments” such as those outlined above. 

Regarding the “efficacy” of this “holistic practitioner’s” treatment, I would argue that confirmation bias and simple misinformation/misunderstanding provide an adequate explanation.   More specifically, those patients that go to see this individual and are “cured” remember and spread the word.  Those that go and do not see any results simply forget the encounter and nothing more is ever said.  Additionally, often times patients will seek out “alternative medicine” when they have exhausted all legit medical treatments.  It is entirely possible that an individual that where “cured” had dealt with a wart for an extended period of time, and out of desperation went to see this “holistic practitioner”.  After being treated by this “holistic practitioner” a period of time passed and the wart(s) disappeared.  Instead of explaining the disappearance of the wart(s) on the self limiting nature of the common wart, the disappearance of the wart(s) is wrongly attributed to the “holistic practitioner”. 

Ideally I would love the opportunity to perform some sort of study/trial with this “holistic practitioner”.   It would be extremely interesting to interview him and inquire about his proposed mechanism of action for his “treatments”, and to determine if his “cure rates” are any better than chance.  I shall wait for the contact info to be forwarded to me from my fellow student…

And I will be sure to post any updates.


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