Warts are unsightly skin growths that develop because of the human papillomavirus or HPV. These growths are made up of hardened skin that feels rough to the touch. They appear in different sizes, shapes and colors on any part of the body, like the face, fingers, hands, feet and even the genitals. The condition mostly affects children, although a number of adults are affected as well. They are more of a cosmetic concern than a health problem which occurs when a person’s immunity is weak.
It would take several months or even years for a wart to disappear on its own. It’s a good thing that treatment is available to remove them in no time. Treatment will also prevent these growths from spreading and infecting other people. Self-treatment of these growths should not be tried so as to avoid problems caused by infection or scarring. Instead, the help of a qualified doctor should be sought.
What causes warts?
Warts may appear when the person catches HPV after touching anything that is contaminated with the virus or by direct skin contact with an infected individual. One may also get the virus through sexual contact with an infected person. The HPV virus speeds up the growth of keratin on the outer layer of the skin which leads to small, rough bumps or growths.
A number of unhygienic practices are conducive for the spread of the virus to different parts of the body. These include nail biting, finger sucking, biting and scratching the wart and shaving the legs or face.
Aside from these unhealthy practices, several factors can also increase the chances of an individual contracting HPV, and these are:
- Weak immune system
- Using public swimming pools, communal showers and locker rooms
- Having multiple sex partners
What do warts look like?
Different strains of HPV can cause differing types of warts. That is why these skin growths appear dissimilar with each other depending on the part of the body affected. Even so, they share some common characteristics that will distinguish them from other skin problems. For one, they are typically small with a color similar to the individual’s skin tone. They are rough to the touch and usually grow in clusters. Warts don’t hurt but they can be terribly annoying especially when touched.
These growths are classified according to part of the body where they formed.
- Common wart
These grayish brown and dome-shaped bumps are usually found on the fingers, hands, elbows and knees.
- Plantar wart
Plantar warts develop on the heels, toes and soles of the feet and appear as flesh-colored bumps with small black dot at the center. These dots are tiny clotted blood vessels.
- Flat wart
As the name implies, these warts are flat and smooth in light or dark hue. They are typically evident on the face, neck, hands, knees and even legs.
- Genital wart
They are transmitted through sexual contact and grow as clusters in the genitals or anus.
- Filiform wart
This is the form of wart that affects the face, prominently on the lips and eyelids, and looks like a small-sized finger.
- Mosaic wart
Mosaic warts grow on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet and appear in groups or clusters.
How are warts treated?
The doctor should be consulted for proper wart treatment. However, treatment does not guarantee the complete elimination of the problem because it may arise over and over again unless the patient takes precautionary measures against HPV.
Treatment may involve:
- Topical creams or ointments
Salicylic acid has been found to effectively remove warts within 3 months.
This treatment method is also referred to as cryosurgery in which the bump frozen with the use of liquid nitrogen. The bump will then start to blister and scab in a few weeks as it heals.
This substance from the blister beetle is injected into the wart to cause it to blister and lift off the skin for easy removal.
- Laser treatment
This procedure is performed when less intensive removal methods fail. Laser treatment for wart removal involves applying laser to kill the wart tissues.
Removing the wart surgically may leave a scar. Depending on the severity of the affected tissues, the doctor may combine surgery with other treatment methods such as cryosurgery to completely remove and kill wart tissues.
How to avoid getting warts
A person can steer clear of warts, or at least, prevent them from recurring or spreading by observing correct hygiene. Proper hand washing, especially after touching a wart; not sharing items like towels, socks and shoes used by an infected person; and wearing footwear all the time, especially in areas where the HPV strives, will spare one from contracting or spreading the disease. Of course, avoiding sexual contact with a person infected by genital warts and not having multiple sexual partners will help prevent getting the virus.