Warts are benign skin growths that usually appear on hands and feet but could also grow anywhere on the body. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for their growth. They are more prone to attack if there are cuts or damage to the skin. The virus promotes extra cell growth, thereby making the skin thick and hard. Wart viruses are contagious and spread through direct contact with a wart or through contact with an object that has touched the wart. Warts can be dark or skin coloured. They could also be painful for some.
The various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of warts. It can affect anyone with open cuts on the skin, a tendency to bite fingernails or a low immune system.
Types of Warts
The types of warts are dependent on its appearance and the location of the growth on the body.
1. Common Warts – They usually grow on hands and feet, especially around the nails. They can spread from hands to the face through touch or biting of nails.
2. Plantar Warts – They grow on the soles of the foot. A typical characteristic is they grow into the skin rather than outward. This often leads to pain.
3. Flat Warts – They usually grow on the face, thighs or arms. They are small and are pink or brownish in colour. They usually grow in large numbers.
4. Filiform Warts – These warts occur on the face around the mouth, eyes, nose or chin. They often grow quickly and are like tiny flaps of skin.
5. Periungual Warts – They are painful warts that grow under or around the fingernails and toenails.
A dermatologist can confirm warts by examination or a skin biopsy. The treatment is decided upon based on the observations and other factors like the age and general health of the patient and the type of wart.
Some warts do not require any treatment and usually disappear on their own. There are a few over the counter treatment options also available.
1. Salicylic acid – This is a potent topical cream or gel that should be applied with care onto the wart as it can destroy the healthy skin surrounding the wart.
2. Cryotherapy/freezing – This technique involves spraying a frozen liquid like nitrogen onto the wart. It destroys the wart cells, creating a blister that eventually falls off.
3. Cantharidin – This is applied onto the wart causing a blister to form under the wart which is then lifted off the skin. The wart and the blistered skin can then be scraped off.
4. Electrosurgery and Curettage – Electrosurgery involves burning the wart through a laser or other methods and curettage involves scraping off the wart using sharp tools.
Since warts are contagious and can spread easily, a few preventive measures would go a long way in managing the condition.
- Wash your hands after treating warts.
- Do not scratch or pick at warts.
- Moist feet allow warts to spread faster. Hence keep your foot dry.
- Wear flip-flops in pool areas or public showers.