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What causes warts?
Warts are minor local infections caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus invades the skin cells and causes them to multiply rapidly. There are at least 50 kinds of warts caused by this virus.
Who gets warts?
In fact, almost everyone will develop a wart at some time or other. Warts are not a sign of poor hygiene, and should not be considered a source of embarrassment.
Are warts contagious?
Yes, the virus can quite readily be passed from one part of the body to another, or from person to person. The virus can also be spread by contact with the skin shed from a wart.
Are warts dangerous?
Common Warts are not dangerous, but they can be a nuisance. They are benign growths and will usually disappear on their own. However, it may take months or years for them to go away, and in the meantime they may spread. The best tact? Have them removed.
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There are 6 clinically different types of warts:
- Common warts have a rather bumpy surface and appear most often on the hands and fingers (of children, in particular).
- Flat or plane warts are small, smooth warts appearing in clusters on the back of the hands, face, or legs.
- Plantar warts are those appearing on the soles of the feet.
- Filiform warts form long, thin projections around the eyes, face, and neck.
- Periungual warts (common in people who bite their nails) occur under and around the fingernails.
- Genital (venereal) warts are those appearing on the genitalia.
Keep in mind that some warts can become cancerous, and some skin cancers can look like warts, so always get them checked by your doctor. Also remember, the sooner a wart is treated, the easier it will be to destroy – so don’t procrastinate.
Warts are generally easy to see or feel
People notice them as abnormal growths, bumps, or other odd changes of the skin. More specifically, plantar and genital warts have very distinct symptoms and are more serious types of warts:
- Plantar: These warts sometimes resemble calluses. They are flat in appearance, deep-rooted in the skin, and can cause pain when you walk. They may be yellow or brown in colour and may also be dotted with tiny grey-black nodules.
- Genital: These warts are often small and flat. They can be pink, white, or grey in colour. They can also join together, forming cauliflower-like growths. These warts are able to grow on both the external and internal genitalia, including the anus, vagina, urethra, and cervix. Genital warts can also appear in the throat if oral sexual contact occurs with an infected person.
*Individual results may vary.
Should warts be removed?
Treatment for warts is advisable if they are on the hands or feet, or on any area where they can spread easily. In fact, removing a wart is probably the best way to prevent new warts from forming.
If you notice any abnormal growths, lumps, or skin changes – which may or may not be accompanied by itching, pain, or bleeding – you should make an appointment with your doctor. A quick physical exam by your doctor is usually all that’s needed to diagnose warts. The physical exam allows your doctor to distinguish a wart from other skin conditions such as moles, calluses, corns, skin tags, or cancer. To properly diagnose genital warts, your doctor may need to remove a small tissue sample (biopsy). There are also some new lab tests currently available that are useful to diagnose certain strains of HPV and to see whether or not the infection is likely to become cancerous.
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*Individual Results May Vary
Treating and Preventing Warts
There are plenty of effective treatments for warts, ranging from creams to laser treatment. Your doctor will decide which treatment is best, depending on the type of wart you have.
Common warts: These warts often respond to over-the-counter topical preparations such as salicylic acid and lactic acid, which work by peeling off the infected skin. Liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) may also be used.
Plantar warts: These warts may be difficult to get rid of and usually require a stronger solution of 40% salicylic acid. For extremely stubborn plantar warts, your doctor may use laser treatment or liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy).
Genital warts: Treatments for destroying genital warts include the following:*
- trichloroacetic acid (TCA) – one of the most popular treatments for warts; results are usually seen after just 1 or 2 treatments
- podophyllin solution (20%) – should not be used by pregnant women since it can cause birth defects in babies
- 5% 5-fluorouracil cream – this is a strong cream, so follow your doctor’s orders very carefully when using this product; pregnant women should not use this treatment
- interferon injection – this is a new treatment in which your doctor injects a chemical called interferon directly into the wart(s)
- imiquimod cream – a new cream treatment for genital warts which some people find less irritating than the other creams mentioned
- cryotherapy or electrocautery – freezing or burning the warts
- laser treatment – an effective method for getting rid of particularly stubborn warts
The latest prevention method for genital warts is a vaccination against 4 common types of HPV. HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer, genital warts, and other health problems. The vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause about 90% of all genital warts. It also prevents infection with types of HPV that cause 70% of all cervical cancers, as well as precancers of the cervix and cancers of the vulva and vagina. The vaccination is available for girls and women 9 to 26 years of age.
Apart from genital or plantar warts, many warts will disappear on their own, without any treatment. However, if you find them bothersome, your doctor can prescribe a treatment such as cryotherapy, which involves freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen. Another option is the use of retinoid (vitamin A) creams prescribed by a doctor; this treatment is appropriate for a selected few and should be used only under close medical supervision.
Getting rid of a wart does not actually remove the offending virus. Therefore, to prevent the virus from spreading, it’s important to avoid contact with infected items. Try not to touch someone else’s warts and don’t let bare feet touch unknown moist surfaces. Most importantly, genital warts can be avoided by using condoms during sexual activity. If you’re ever diagnosed with genital warts, always complete follow-up exams and tell your partner or previous sexual partners so they can be properly tested and treated.
Take the First Step – Request a Consultation
If you would like to schedule an in-person consultation or learn which treatment is right for you, please fill out the form on this page and one of our knowledgeable medical staff members at Total Dermatology will reach out to you promptly. You can also call our Irvine office directly to schedule. (949) 727-3800
Total Dermatology serves the Irvine, CA area.
*Individual Results May Vary