Cantharidin – Clinical Wart Treatment For Quick Removal

wart remedy cantharidine

 What is Cantharidin?

Cantharidin is a toxic chemical compound that in nature is secreted by many species of blister beetle including the Spanish fly. In diluted form, it can be an effective way of removing warts and is also known as the beetle juice wart treatment. Not all warts need to be treated as many will fade of their own accord, but patients want them off their body because they are embarrassing, can sometimes be painful, and are easily irritated.

Blister Beetles

Blister beetles (also known as Spanish flies) belong to the family of Meloidae. There are over 1,500 species of blister beetles that are identified to produce cantharidin, a blistering agent that they release as their form of a defense mechanism. It is highly toxic as it can inflame the urinary tracts and gastrointestinal canals which may cause death, specifically with horses.

wart trearment catharidine derived from blister beetles

Advantages of Using Cantharidin in Wart Removal

 The goal of any wart removal treatment is to destroy the troublesome growth without causing scarring. The advantage of using the cantharidin treatment is that it doesn’t leave behind any scar tissue.

Treatment involves a doctor painting the compound over the wart and then covering the area with a bandage, which is worn for 24 hours. A blister forms within 12 to 24 hours and when it dries, the wart comes off with the skin. The procedure is relatively painless, although the cantharidin blister may be painful for several hours afterward. Cleanliness around the area where cantharidin is applied should always be maintained. To avoid the formation of a scab, the blister should always be moist. Apply Vaseline in the area covered with a bandage at least once or twice a day to keep moisture in.

Whenever warts become really sore and painful, you may drain the fluid inside the blister by cleaning the area around the wart with alcohol and carefully pricking the side part of the blister with a sterilized needle. Do not attempt to remove the top portion of the blister.

Cantharidin is sometimes used if other treatments such as salicylic acid or cryotherapy have been unsuccessful, and it should never be applied on moles, birthmarks, warts with hair growing from them or on any warts in the genital area. The treatment should not be applied to those who have diabetes, peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and other problems with the circulatory system. It is also not used in combination with any other chemical.

How Does Cantharidin Work?

 When cantharidin is applied on the affected area, it activates the serine protease or serine endopeptidases which then deteriorates the desmosomal plaque. It will then lead to the separation of the desmosomes and the tonofilaments. After that, it now leads to acantholysis and blistering within the epidermis. This is the reason why it normally heals without scarring because acantholysis occurs inside the epidermis.

Upon application of the topical cantharidin, blisters will start to form within 1 to 2 days. 4 to 7 days after cantharidin is administered, it will completely heal the blisters. You may control the intensity of blistering by washing the treated warts with soap and water at a certain time that you are instructed to wash them. People with fair skin blister more easily than others. Blistering may become more severe by increasing contact time or by using nonporous tape as an obstruction to enhance absorption.

Compared to the way Molluscum is treated, warts are treated more seriously. The intensive process includes paring of warts and then they will apply cantharidin to the wart. They will then patch it with a nonporous tape. After 4 hours, the cantharidin is washed. When warts persist even after the treatment, peeling off and reapplying the treatment are performed in 1 or 2 weeks. When these guidelines are followed, too much blistering and pain rarely occur.

Do not attempt using Cantharidin on your own. It should be administered only by a professional doctor or with the assistance of a doctor. There are a few reports that promote the use of cantharidin for warts at home. However, this doesn’t change the fact that the use of cantharidin for removing warts at home should be avoided at all cost because improper use of the treatment can cause serious swelling of warts.

Even worse, it could even be fatal to children who might accidentally ingest the treatment. Treating warts on mucous membranes is medically unacceptable. To avoid having scleral erosion, do not use cantharidin on your warts that are on your eyelids or anywhere near your eyes.

Cantharidin Success in Removing Warts

 A significant body of scientific research exists that testify to the compound’s effectiveness. One famous study observed that 33% of patients’ periungual warts disappeared completely after just one treatment. Few test subjects required more than three treatments and a cure was achieved in about 70% of cases (Epstein J, Epstein W. Cantharidin treatment of digital and periungual warts. Calif Med 1960; 93 (1): 11-12).

In a more recent research paper, published in April 2009 in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment scientists concluded that cantharidin is a safe and effective treatment when applied to recalcitrant facial flat warts. Fifteen patients took part in the study and therapy was performed for 4-6 hours every three weeks. After sixteen weeks, warts had been eradicated from every single patient (Durmazlar S, et al. Cantharidin treatment for recalcitrant facial flat warts: A preliminary study. Journal of Dermatological Treatment 2009; 20 (2): 114-119).

Though the effectiveness of cantharidin as wart removal treatment has been observed in peer-reviewed scientific papers, the toxic compound from the blister beetle has not yet been approved for the treatment of warts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Since children are prone to having warts, cantharidin may be used to treat their warts but with some restrictions. A common brand for cantharidin, Cantharone is suitable for children 3 years old and above. For children below 3, it is not recommended that they use any form of Cantharidin for treatment including Cantharone. Cantharone Plus can be used for children ages 12 and older but is not recommended to children below 12 years old.

Side Effects of Cantharidin

 As we all know, every medication always has its side effects, either mild or aggressive. When buying medication, consult with your local pharmacist regarding the possible side effects of the medication you are purchasing. Also, check the packaging of the medication as it contains information about the possible side effects when applied.

When side effects are experienced, they will normally go away quickly. Most of the time, the side effects are small compared to the benefits of the medication. If the side effects persist and you think it is not normal anymore, contact your physician. Continue with the doctor’s prescription until the doctor tells you to discontinue the use of the medication. The doctor may prescribe you with a different medication, one that may have either a lower dosage or completely different medication entirely.

When using cantharidin, be observant with the possible side effects. The common side effects of cantharidin are sore skin for approximately two to six days and you will experience a bit of burning or tingling sensations 4 hours after cantharidin is applied.

Common misspellings include: cantharidine

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