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Warts

  • Wart
    Warts are benign skin growths that appear on the skin when a virus infects the top layer of the skin. Viruses that cause warts are called human papillomavirus (HPV). Wart viruses are contagious. Warts can spread by contact with the wart or something that touched the wart.
  • Common Wart
    Common Warts are warts that usually appear on hands or face. They appear as small, fleshy, grainy bumps and are flesh-colored, white, pink, or tan. They are rough to the touch and can be sprinkled with black pinpoints, which are small, clotted blood vessels. These warts can spread from the hands to the face through touching.
  • Plantar Wart
    Plantar Warts are warts that grow most commonly on the surface of the feet. These warts can grow in clusters and are often flat or grow inward.
  • Wart diagram
    This graphic shows the growth of a wart.

About

Warts

Warts are benign skin growths that appear on the skin when a virus infects the top layer of the skin. Viruses that cause warts are called human papillomavirus (HPV). Wart viruses are contagious. Warts can spread by contact with the wart or something that touched the wart.

Warts are often skin-colored and feel rough, but they can be dark (brown or gray-black), flat, and smooth. Warts can appear on any part of the body.

Causes

Warts are caused by an infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 100 types of HPV exist. Some types of HPV cause warts on your hands, and other types cause warts on your feet. Other types of HPV are more likely to cause warts other areas of your skin and mucous membranes. Most types of HPV cause relatively harmless conditions such as common warts, while others may cause serious disease such as cancer of the cervix.

Warts are contagious and spread from skin-to-skin contact with people who have warts. If you have warts, you can spread the virus to other places on your own body. You can also get the wart virus indirectly by touching something that another person's wart touched, such as a towel or exercise equipment. The virus usually spreads through breaks in your skin, such as a hangnail or a scrape. Biting your nails also can cause warts to spread on your fingertips and around your nails.

Everyone’s immune system responds to the HPV virus differently, so just because you come into contact with the HPV virus you may not contract warts.

Risk Factors

Anyone can get warts. Some people are more prone to getting a wart virus (HPV) than others. These people are:

  • Children and teens.
  • People who bite their nails or pick at hangnails.
  • People with a weakened immune system (the body’s defense system).

Symptoms

There are a few different types of warts. The type is determined by where it grows on the body and what it looks like. The following describes the symptoms of some of the different types:

  • Common Warts--are warts that usually appear on hands or face. They appear as small, fleshy, grainy bumps and are flesh-colored, white, pink, or tan. They are rough to the touch and can be sprinkled with black pinpoints, which are small, clotted blood vessels. These warts can spread from the hands to the face through touching.
  • Plantar Warts--are warts that grow most commonly on the surface of the feet. These warts can grow in clusters and are often flat or grow inward. These warts can hurt while walking.
  • Flat Warts--can occur anywhere. Children usually get them on the face. Men get these most often in the beard area, and women tend to get them on their legs. These warts are smaller and smoother than other warts, and they tend to grow in large numbers — 20 to 100 at a time.
  • Filiform Warts--are warts that look like long threads or thin fingers that stick out. These often grow on the face: around the mouth, eyes, and nose. They also grow very quickly.

Diagnosis

In most cases, your doctor can diagnose a common wart with one or more of these techniques:

  • Examining the wart.
  • Scraping off the top layer of the wart to check for signs of dark, pinpoint dots — clotted blood vessels — which are common with warts.
  • Removing a small section of the wart (shave biopsy) and sending it to a laboratory for analysis to rule out other types of skin growths.

*Source:

American Academy of Dermatology Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

Treatment

Treatment

Most warts respond to over-the-counter treatments, including:

  • Cryotherapy
  • Electrosurgery
  • Laser Surgery
  • Nonprescription Freezing Products
  • Salicylic Acid Preparations

If self-treatments don't work after a period of about 4 to 12 weeks, contact our dermatologist. We'll assess your warts and recommend the best option.

Always contact the dermatologist if a wart is causing pain, changes in color or appearance and for all genital warts.

*Source:

American Academy of Dermatology Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

FAQs

How Do You Get Warts?

Warts occur when the virus comes in contact with your skin and causes an infection. Warts are more likely to develop on broken skin, such as picked hangnails or areas nicked by shaving, because the virus is able to enter the top layer of skin through scratches or cuts.

While dermatologists still don’t know why, certain people are more likely to get warts than others. Additionally, children get warts much more often than adults, because their immune systems have not yet built up their defenses against the numerous types of human papillomavirus that exist.

Are Warts Contagious?

Unfortunately, yes. You can get warts from touching a wart on someone else’s body, or by coming in contact with surfaces that touched someone’s warts, such as towels or bathmats.

Can I Spread Warts From One Part of My Body to Another?

Yes, you can. For this reason, it is important not to pick at your warts and to wash your hands promptly and thoroughly any time you touch one of your warts. If you have warts in an area where you shave, keep in mind that shaving over the wart could transfer the virus to the razor and then spread it to other areas of your body.

Why Do Some Warts Have Black Dots in Them?

If you look closely, many skin warts contain a number of black dots that resemble little seeds. These specks are visible blood vessels that are supplying the wart with nutrients and oxygen.

Can Warts Be Prevented?

Though skin warts can’t be prevented, there are a number of precautionary measures you can take to minimize your risk of acquiring warts. One of the most important things you can do is to wash your hands regularly. Also, try to keep your skin healthy, moisturized, and free of cuts. If you bite your fingernails or cuticles, do your best to stop. Biting nails creates an opening for virus to enter your skin. Be careful to use clean, fresh towels at the gym or in other public locations, and always wear rubber-soled flip-flops or sandals in public locker rooms and showers.

Will Warts Go Away On Their Own?

Some warts will go away without treatment, others will not. Even those warts that eventually go away can take months, or even years, to disappear. Also, keep in mind that any wart can be a “mother” wart that spreads to other parts of your body. Most dermatologists say it is best to treat warts, either at home or in the doctor’s office, as soon as they appear.

When Do You Need to See a Doctor About Warts?

For common skin warts, many dermatologists agree that it’s perfectly fine to try over-the-counter wart treatments for a couple of months. If your warts don’t go away during that time, or if they get worse, it may be wise to seek medical attention. Dermatologists have a variety of wart treatment and removal techniques that are stronger and may work faster than commercially available products.

Also, remember that all warts can be “mother” warts that give rise to additional warts in your skin. So, the faster you remove the wart, the less likely it will spread.

What Are Some of the Most Effective At-Home Wart Treatments?

While at-home wart treatments can take weeks or months to work, salicylic acid plasters or solutions that peel away the wart can be very effective when used correctly. Be sure to follow directions carefully. Use a dedicated pumice stone, emery board, or nail file to remove dead skin from the wart the day after each application of wart remover. Don’t use the file for any other purpose; it could spread the virus to another part of your body. And throw it away when the wart is gone.

People also use duct tape or clear nail polish to suffocate the virus, thereby removing the wart, although these treatments probably do not work any better than a placebo. Use duct tape like you would a wart-remover patch. Put a small strip over the wart and leave it in place for about six days. At the end of the sixth day, remove the tape, soak the wart in water and then gently debride it with a pumice stone, emery board, or nail file. Repeat the process as often as it takes to remove the wart.

How Will a Doctor Treat My Warts?

It depends. Two quick options that do not cause too much discomfort are freezing the skin wart with liquid nitrogen or burning it off. In some instances, your dermatologist will use laser to treat especially stubborn warts, although there is no evidence that this form of treatment works any better than other treatment options.

Doctors may also use a chemical called cantharidin on the wart, which causes a blister to form beneath the growth. When the skin on the top of the blister dies, it contains part of the wart and can be removed.

Other options include surgical removal of the wart and the injection or application of certain drugs that strengthen your immune system’s response to the wart.

*Source:

WebMD, LLC

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