Rough, fleshy, but painless bumps and blisters can affect the skin on your feet, hands, and face.
Warts are extremely common. Although they are usually not dangerous, they are very contagious and can also make you feel self-conscious.
How do you know which type of wart you have?
Telling Warts Apart By Where They Are and How They Look
Like their name suggests, these are the most familiar types of warts. They can appear on your hands and face, but affect your fingers most often. They look like rough, raised bumps and can be dotted in black.
Also known as plantar warts, these are found on the soles of your feet, your heels, or toes. Because of their location, they can often be painful and affect your ability to walk comfortably.
Flat warts, or verruca plana, can appear anywhere but are especially common in areas that receive a lot of sun exposure. They are much smaller than other warts and have a round, flattened appearance.
Most commonly found on the eyelids, armpits, or neck area, these warts grow very quickly and look like long, thin pegs.
Warts Can Affect Anyone, But Children Are at Higher Risk
Warts are especially common in children. The online publication Medical News Today estimates that warts affect one in three kids. Another study by the American Academy of Family Physicians also found that jobs involving the handling of meat and produce could put you at risk for warts. In fact, 34 percent of butchers and 33 percent of slaughterhouse workers had warts.
Additionally, nail-biters and those with weakened immune systems also have a higher risk of contracting warts.
How do these factors increase your risk for warts?
Warts Are Caused By the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Warts are caused when different strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) enter the skin through a cut, person-to-person contact, or sharing personal items.
HPV affects the outer layer of your dermal tissue, causing rapid and excessive keratin growth. Keratin is a hard protein found in the outer layer of skin. As it hardens, a wart forms.
Warts are spread to other persons through nail biting, touching, shaving, and more.
"Most common warts in healthy people resolve spontaneously. Clearance rates in children from time of diagnosis to clearance are 23% at 2 months, 30% at 3 months, 65% to 78% at 2 years, and 90% at 5 years."'
-Angela Yen Moore, MD
Warts Are Also Preventable
Avoid excessive contact with those who have warts
You can contract warts by touching a wart on someone else's body or even sharing personal items such as towels.
Wear protective clothing
Pools, spas, and gym locker rooms are breeding grounds for viruses. Always wear shoes to avoid contracting plantar warts.
Avoid biting your nails
Biting your nails or ripping off hangnails is one of the most common ways that warts are spread. Break the bad habit for good.
A Doctor or Dermatologist Can Diagnose and Treat You
If you have a wart, your dermatologist will review your health, family history, and perform a visual check of the wart in question. In some cases, he or she may also perform a biopsy.
During the biopsy, your dermatologist will remove the wart and send it to a lab for further analysis. The biopsy is a safe and fairly easy procedure.
There Are Several Treatments Available for Warts
Warts are harmless and usually disappear on their own, so most patients go untreated. However, if your warts are painful, persistent, or plentiful, you should see a dermatologist. Your treatment may include:
Your dermatologist will apply cantharidin to the wart. Over the course of a week, the solution will kill off the wart and trigger blistering. You will then return to the office to have the wart clipped off in a painless procedure.
Your dermatologist will spray freezing nitrogen onto the wart to destroy its cells. A blister will form and fall off a week or so later. For larger warts, multiple sessions may be needed.
Electrosurgery and Curettage
During the 30-minute procedure, your dermatologist will electrically heat a needle and place it on the wart, burning it. He or she will then scrape off the wart. The procedure boasts high success rates.
A laser is more precise than other methods and can help your dermatologist target light into the wart's blood vessels. By killing the wart's blood supply, laser treatment causes the wart to fall off.
If your warts will not go away, there are more invasive treatment options available including surgery, bleomycin injections, and immunotherapy. Alternatively, you have the option of over-the-counter treatments. However, if done incorrectly, these can cause permanent damage to healthy surrounding skin.
A Doctor Can Provide Treatment
It is important to remember that warts are caused by a virus. Although they can be managed, they may also reappear. A doctor can help you correctly diagnose the wart and recommend the most appropriate treatment option. Professional treatments are safe, quick, and effective and can help you regain confidence in your skin and not worry about spreading warts to others. Schedule a consultation with your doctor today.