In short, warts are common, non-cancerous skin growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes skin cells to grow faster than average. The good news is that warts will often go away on their own or can be medically removed. Continue reading to learn more about warts and their removal and treatment.
WHAT ARE WARTS?
Also known as Verrucae Vulgaris, warts are small, grainy skin growths that grow most often on your fingers, hands, feet and toes. As mentioned above, warts are caused by the HPV virus, which is transmitted through touching, such as shared towels, razors or washcloths. Warts thrive most on moist, wet and injured skin.
The HPV virus is prevalent and has over 150 types, although only a few will cause warts. Warts enter the body when there is a cut or break in the skin in areas like a hangnail or scrape, causing an infection. Once infected, the virus triggers extra cell growth, causing the outer layer of the skin to thicken and harden in that spot. It can take warts as long as two to six months to develop after the skin has been exposed to the virus.
WHO IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO GETTING WARTS?
Since everyone has different immune systems and responses, not everyone that comes in contact with HPV will get a wart. People who damage or cut their skin regularly are more susceptible to getting warts since it is easier for the virus to take hold. People who bite their nails can also be more susceptible to warts spreading around their fingertips and nails. Others at increased risk of getting warts are children (due to cut susceptibility) and teens, as their bodies haven’t fully developed defenses and immunity to HPV. Finally, those with autoimmune disease or weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, are more susceptible to getting warts.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF WARTS?
There are a few different types of warts, some being more common than others.
Common warts are flesh-colored and the most common (hence the name). Common warts can be found on fingers, around the nails and feet. They usually range in size from a pinhead to the size of a pea. They are hard to the touch and sometimes may have black dots running through them that resemble seeds.
Often confused for calluses, these warts are located on the bottoms of your feet. Unlike other warts, these grow flat into your skin due to the pressure of walking and standing. If you ever feel like there are tiny rocks stuck in the sole of your shoe, this may be a sign of plantar warts. The best way to identify these warts over calluses is to look for black dots at the surface.
Flat warts tend to be much smaller in size than other warts, and they are also smoother. The bad part about these warts is that they tend to grow in vast numbers, somewhere around 20 to 100 at one time. Flat warts commonly appear on children’s faces, men’s beards and women’s legs.
Filiform warts are spiky and fast-growing. They sometimes resemble tiny brushes. These warts can be highly annoying since they grow around the mouth, eyes and nose. However, they usually do not cause any pain.
These warts are spread through sexual intercourse or genital-to-genital contact. These tend to be a cluster of small, scattered bumps. However, they can also spread even if they aren’t visible.
HOW CAN I TREAT WARTS?
Although most warts are usually harmless and will eventually disappear on their own, many people find them bothersome and choose to remove them from embarrassment because of their size. Some choose to let them be, while others who find them painful may have them treated or removed. Warts can last for many months and even up to two years before they go away on their own. Sometimes, waiting on a wart to disappear can allow it to get larger, grow additional ones, or you could give them to someone else.
There are many different over-the-counter wart treatment products on the market, but it’s always best to speak with a dermatologist about the best remedy for you. Sometimes, skin cancer can be mistaken for warts, and your dermatologist can best identify this.
For teenagers and up, cryosurgery is an excellent measure to take when wanting to remove a stubborn wart. Your dermatologist will freeze off the wart with liquid nitrogen. Due to the freezing temperature, it may cause a slight stabbing pain. Sometimes cryosurgery requires more than one session and follow-up appointments to make sure the area heals correctly. Dermatologists may decide to take a different route and use electrosurgery, which burns the wart with an electric charge through a needle. Your doctor may also use a laser. Curettage is another option used in dermatologist offices; the wart is scraped off with a sharp knife or spoon in this procedure. Your dermatologist may also prescribe you a prescription cream for those stubborn warts.
HOW DO I PREVENT WARTS?
There is no way to prevent yourself from warts, but you can help limit and stop the spread, such as:
- Wash your hands after treating warts (whether they are yours or your children’s).
- Keep warts on your feet dry.
- Wear waterproof shoes or flip-flops in public showers, locker rooms, public pools and shared dorm bathrooms.
- Resist the urge to pick, touch or scratch your warts and never touch someone else’s, as you can spread the virus this way.
- Make sure to groom with care. Avoid areas with warts, and avoid sharing razors and towels with others.
- Do not bite your fingernails.
- When choosing a nail salon, make sure they properly clean and disinfect the tools.
Remember, you are not only protecting others from warts, but by taking these measures, you’re also protecting yourself!
WART REMOVAL AND TREATMENT | DERMATOLOGY CENTER FOR SKIN HEALTH, PLLC
Warts can be frustrating to live with, particularly if they cause pain. At the Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC, we want to do everything possible to help you understand your warts and provide the best possible treatment. Please schedule an appointment to develop a treatment plan today by calling us at 304-598-3888.