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August 2012

I'll Get You My Pretty

Warts have been a bane on my existence over the last couple of years. Maybe many of you have been lucky enough to avoid the pain and annoyance that comes with this virus and can feign superiority with an air of disgust while reading this.

I wish I was one of you. *sigh*

I never had warts as a kid. I had one plantars wart in my early twenties that I managed to get rid of with over-the-counter treatments. You know (or maybe you're lucky enough not to know), the Dr. Scholl's pad treatments. Blackstone, however, had a nightmarish ordeal with them through childhood and as a teenager. His hands are covered with scars from having them repeatedly frozen with nitrogen, the common treatment twenty years ago. I think he may still have nightmares about those constant visits where he endured the pain and listened to his skin sizzle. As he's gotten older, they have been much less frequent, so most of this he went through before we met.

Trouble has been lucky enough to escape this family trait. Warts are not considered genetic, they are a virus. But if someone in your family has that virus, I think it's safe to say that your odds of catching that virus increase. Personally, I suspect there is a genetic precursor of some sort at work here. Some people are more prone than others for an outbreak.

LT has not been so lucky.

His warts have been gone for about a year now, but that is after undergoing over year of treatment from a pediatric dermatologist. Freezing warts is now considered an antiquated treatment and most dermatologists and podiatrists will either strongly advise you not to request freezing or outright refuse to provide it. At least that has been my experiences with the dermatologist and two podiatrists I have dealt with.

LT started with a wart on his knee. I wasn't too concerned at first. I asked his pediatrician about this who counseled me that most warts will go away on their own over time. But LT being an active little boy is prone to skinning his knees. This caused the virus to spread quickly until he had a whole family of warts on his knee. So we started seeing a pediatric dermatologist. I couldn't go back and give you the names of the in-office and at-home treatments we did for months. LT had to go in to see her either monthly or every two weeks. This was time consuming and expensive. I don't need to explain to a parent how all these appointments add up: pediatrician, dentist, opthamologist, orthodontist. Between me and my two kids it seems like I'm taking time out of work every other week for one appointment or another. And because I had crappy health insurance and a $4,000 deductible, all of these appointments were out of pocket medical costs. Between LT's treatments and my own, it is no exaggeration to say I have spent thousands of dollars on warts over the past two years.

You really have to learn to advocate for yourself and your child, and this experience was no exception. After about six months of these visits I asked about a more aggressive treatment. Blackstone wanted them frozen because in his experience that was the only thing that worked. The doctor flatly refused and said it was ineffective and in her opinion painful and cruel. She would consider laser treatment if all else failed. This ended up being several more months of shots of yeast into his knee every two weeks which did nothing. We did consider switching him to another dermatologist, but the idea of starting over with someone new was not appealing either. The dermatologist also continually reminded us that we could just leave the warts alone and they would likely eventually disappear on their own.

LT's knee looked like a head of cauliflower. At this point my blood boiled every time someone told me to just ignore them. Every time he skinned his knee they continued to spread. They also weren't all that comfortable, LT found them embarrassing and wanted them gone too.  Though as the treatments progressed to needles and lasers he was less and less enthusiastic about these trips to the dermatologist. Bringing him became increasingly tortorous for all of us. He needed to be physically restrained during the treatments. It was truly awful.

In the end it took three laser treatments and the warts were completely gone. I realize that this treatment is expensive and for that reason only given once other treatments have been tried and found ineffective, but honestly, I think it would have cost the insurance company less if the dermatologist had just looked at the severity of his warts and done the laser treatment in the beginning. Given what I know now, faced with the same situation I would call every pediatric dermatologist in this state and neighboring states to find one I could convince to just given him the laser treatments without the previous months of trial and error which was a drain on our time and money and also resulted in a long, drawn out, traumatic experience for our son.

While LT was undergoing his treatments, I also started seeing a podiatrist for a plantars wart on my foot. He treated me every 2-4 weeks with an acid of some kind and thought he got rid of it. After a few months, it either came back or more likely was never gone and I started seeing him again. Again he thought he got rid of it, but really not. I treated myself for this one and managed to get rid of it. I figured I could do the treatment he was giving me on my own. I treated it with acid, waited for part of it to die, shaved it off with a sterilized razor blade, covered it with neosporin, gave it a day or two and repeated the process again. I wouldn't advise anyone to do this on their own, but after the frustration, time and expense I was completely fed up. Obviously, there is a risk of infection in doing this on your own, but I was careful and have a healthy immune system and it worked.

But I ended up with two more warts on my other foot that were kind of close to my toes. Their placement made treating them myself trickier. They were more difficult to access and the acid kept getting between my toes causing the skin to peel and itch. I asked my general practitioner for a referral but to someone other than they originally sent me. They took weeks to get back to me and referred me to a dermatologist. In order to get an early morning appointment I had to schedule three months out. In the mean time, I got a referral to a different podiatrist from my esthetician. I managed to get an appointment in two weeks. She offered me two types of treatments. One was more of a process that consisted of an acid treatment in the office and a perscription for me to keep using at home. The second was also an acid treatment but much stronger that contained (of all things) beatle juice. She warned me it would be painful and that my foot would blister, but I still opted for the second treatment. I just wanted the wart gone and appointments that went on for months and months were not an option. I have better health insurance now and no deductible, but I still have copays and I'm still taking time out of work for every visit.

The first treatment was painful but bareable. The pain only lasted a couple of days. Two weeks later at my follow up she did the same treatment again. Now, it doesn't hurt right away. It takes about 12 hours for it to really start to burn and then blister. The second treatment hurt like hell, probably because there was less wart to kill. I could barely walk for a week. The area blistered and turned purple. It was awful.

Three weeks later the wart still wasn't gone and I was facing another treatment. The acid/beatle juice potion/whatever-it-was was working and do I think that another treatment would have done it. But at this point I knew I was in for an even worse ordeal than the time before, so I told her to cut it out. I knew this would not be pain-free, but figured the wart was much smaller now and having it cut out would probably mean a shorter recovery period. She acquiesced and warned me that this would be painful as well.

Like dental procedures or any outpatient surgery I've had, it's not the procedure itself that hurts, it's the numbing shot they give you beforehand. Now, I've had similar shots in my gums, even in my labia, but when I tell you this was the most intense and searing pain I have ever felt from a shot like that I am not exagerating. I just about hit the roof. It took everything I had to keep my foot still. Even in childbirth I don't think I ever swore. This time I did. It was forty-five seconds of pure, unadulterated torture before the numbing sensation started to slowly take over.

After that it was pretty much cake. I never felt any pain during the procedure. It did hurt some in the days that followed, but nothing like the burning, blistering pain that went on for days on end.

The podiatrist asked me which was worse. Honestly, neither was pleasant. I also have no doubt that the minor surgery would have been much worse if the wart hadn't been shrunk by the previous two acid treatments. However, I am the type of person that would rather suffer through the intensity of the forty-five seconds than the long, drawn out, searing, but less intense pain that lasts a week.

For those of you that may encounter warts in your future, I hope I may have spared you some time and money. I'd say pain, but I don't think there's any sparing that when you're dealing with warts.

For those of you that never have the pleasure, you suck.