What are warts?
Warts are skin-coloured, uneven lumps (non-cancerous) on the skin. They mostly appear on the hands and feet. Their look depends on where they erupt on the body and how thick the skin is.
Thus, they are skin infections caused by viruses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. The HPV virus causes a hard protein called keratin in the top layer of the skin (the epidermis) to grow too much, producing the rough, hard texture of a wart.
They can affect any area of the body. Warts are usually painless with the exception of the warts on the soles of the feet.
Warts are more common in kids than in adults. They are usually painless and harmless, and often clear up by themselves, although treatment can help to get rid of them more quickly.
Types of warts include:
- Common warts – mostly found on fingers, hands, knees, and elbows, where the skin has been broken. These are also called “seed” warts because the blood vessels to the wart produce black dots that look like seeds.
- Filiform warts – these have a finger-like shape, are usually flesh-colored,and often grow on or around the mouth, eyes, or nose.
- Flat warts – also called juvenile warts. They tend to grow in large numbers – 20 to 30 at a time. Most people who get flat warts have them on their faces, but they can also grow on arms, knees, or hands.
- Plantar warts – found on the bottom of the foot (known as verruca). They can be very uncomfortable – like walking on a small stone.
- Genital warts – sometimes called venereal warts, are contracted through sexual contact. They’re spread by direct, skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person.
Symptoms of common warts include:
- – Small, fleshy bumps
- – Flesh-colored or whitish, pink or tan
- – Rough to touch
Warts may occur singly or in clusters. They often contain one or more tiny black dots, which are sometimes called wart seeds, which are actually small, clotted blood vessels. Young adults and children appear to be affected most often.
Are warts contagious?
Yes. Warts are very contagious. The skin cells in warts release thousands of viruses, so close skin-to-skin contact can pass on the infection. It is also possible to get warts from using towels or other objects that were used by an infected person.
The time from the first contact with an infected person to the time the warts have grown large enough to be seen is often several months. The risk of catching hand, foot, or flat warts from another person is however small.
People with a weak immune system are more likely to get infected.
Often warts disappear on their own, although it may take many months, or even years, for the warts to go away. However, some warts won’t go away on their own.
Warts need to be treated, as they can turn out to be inconvenient. They can bleed and cause pain, and can be awkward, if they grow on your face. Treatment decreases the chance that they will be spread to other areas of your body or to other people.
Warts are treated depending on the age of the patient and the type of wart.
Do not try any home remedies or over-the-counter drugs to remove warts on the genital area. One shouldn’t treat warts on the face without taking advice from the doctor first.
Common warts in young children can be treated at home by applying salicylic acid gel or solution. Treatment should be stopped at least temporarily if the wart becomes sore.
For adults, cryotherapy (freezing) is preferred. Repeat treatments at intervals of one to three weeks are necessary.
Electrosurgery (burning) is another good alternative treatment.
Laser treatment is a recent technique used for stubborn warts that have not responded to other therapies.
In case of foot warts, the dermatologist may recommend a change in footwear to reduce pressure on the wart and ways to keep the foot dry since moisture tends to allow warts to spread.
Some of the common treatments are:
- Cryotherapy: in this procedure, the doctors spray liquid nitrogen to the wart which kills all the living cells in it. After some time, the dead cells form a blister and then the blister gets dried out and it falls off within a week.
- Cantharidin: in this treatment, the doctor puts some wart removing substance on the wart-like extract from blister beetle and then covers the area with a bandage. Soon a blister will form and will form scab on the wart which then will be removed by the doctor.
- Salicylic acid: according to this treatment, one will have to apply salicylic acid or its ointment on the wart, but by making sure that it is not applied to the healthy skin as it can be damaging. Usually, this treatment takes a lot of time, up to about 2 to 3 months.
- Surgery: when most of the treatments do not work, then usually doctors suggest surgically removing it either by a medical razor or by laser treatment. One should not go for surgery immediately as it may scar later and should wait till other options fail.
If once treated, do warts recur?
Most of the time, treatment of warts on the skin is successful and the warts are permanently gone. The body’s immune system usually gets rid of any tiny bits of wart that may have remained after a wart has been treated.
Genital warts are more dangerous as they are likely to come back. This is so, as there’s no cure for the virus that causes them and because warts are more difficult to control in a moist environment.
Preventive steps to avoid getting warts
To reduce the risk of getting a wart:
- Avoid touching other people’s warts.
- Do not scratch a wart as this may spread the infection to other parts of the body.
- Avoid sharing towels or other personal items with an infected person.
- Do not share shoes or socks with someone who has a foot wart.
- If you have a wart on your hand, you should wear gloves if you are using common equipment.
- To avoid genital warts, practice safe sex. Always use condoms. You can also avoid genital warts by having a monogamous sexual relationship with a partner known to be disease-free.
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