Warts are skin growths that are caused by the human
papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 60 kinds of HPV, some of which tend
to cause warts on the skin. HPV stimulates quick growth of cells on the skin's
outer layer. In most cases, common warts appear on the fingers, near the fingernails,
or on the hands.
Viruses called human papillomavirus (HPV) cause
warts. It is easier to catch a virus that causes warts when you have a cut or
scrape on your skin. This explains why so many children get warts. Warts also
are more common on parts of the body that people shave such as the beard area
in men and the legs in women. You can spread warts from one place on your body
to another. Warts can spread from person to person. You can get warts from
touching a wart on someone's body. Some people get a wart after touching
something that another person's wart touched, such as a towel. It often takes a
few months for warts to grow large enough to see.
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).
In children, warts often go away without treatment. A dermatologist should
treat warts that hurt, bother the child, or quickly multiply.
Most warts are raised and have a rough surface.
They may be round or oval. The spot where the wart is may be lighter or darker
than your skin. Rarely, warts are black. Some warts have smooth or flat
surfaces. Some warts may cause pain.
Different types of warts include:
- Common warts often appear on the hands, but they can grow anywhere.
Flat warts are generally found on the face and forehead. They are common in
children. They are less common in teens, and rare in adults.
- Genital Warts (Condyloma)
usually appear on the genitals, in the pubic area, and in the area between the
thighs. They can also appear inside the vagina and anal canal.
- Plantar warts found on the soles of the feet. They can be very
painful. Having many of them on your feet may cause problems walking or
- Subungual and Periungual warts appear under and around the
fingernails or toenails.
How Are Warts Treated?
In most cases, warts found on the
skin are harmless and can disappear without treatment. However, genital
be evaluated by a doctor. Sometimes, warts may recur after treatment and
more than one type of treatment may be necessary. Although practitioners
attempt to clear warts quickly, most methods require multiple treatments.
Treatments may include:
- Freezing: In
this treatment, a doctor will use liquid nitrogen to freeze a wart. A blister
forms around the wart and the dead tissue falls off within about a week.
- Cantharidin: This substance, an
extract of a blister beetle and applied to the skin, forms a blister around the
wart. After cantharidin is applied, the area is covered with a bandage. The
blister lifts the wart off the skin so the doctor can remove the dead portion of
- Other medications: These include bleomycin,
which is injected into a wart to kill a virus, and Aldara, an
immunotherapy drug that comes in the form of a prescription cream. Although
Aldara is stated for genital warts, it is modestly effective on other types of
- Minor surgery: When warts
cannot be removed by other therapies, surgery may be used to cut away the wart.
The base of the wart will be destroyed using an electric needle or by
cryosurgery (deep freezing).
- Laser surgery: This procedure
utilizes an intense beam of light (laser) to burn and destroy wart tissue.