Warts are benign skin growths that are caused by some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are rough in texture and can appear anywhere on the skin, often resembling blisters or small cauliflowers. This article describes the types, causes, prevention and treatment of warts.
Warts appearance depends on where they are on the body and the thickness of the skin. They are often found on the fingers, hands, and feet.
Warts are most commonly present in children with as many as 1 in 3 children having them. On the other hand, only 3-5% of adults have warts. The reason for this is that children have a weaker immune system than adults who tend to have developed better resistance to disease over time.
Types of Warts
There are different types of warts with each appearing on varying parts of the body with a distinct look. There are five main types of warts:
- Common warts – You are most likely to find these on your hands and toes but they can appear anywhere else on the skin. They are commonly found where there is broken skin mostly the knuckles, knees, and elbows. They have a raised, rough and firm exterior which is rounded at the top and gray-brown in color as compared to the skin surrounding them.
- Plantar warts – These occur on the soles of the feet. They grow into the foot rather than out of it because the entire weight of your body is exerted on the feet. You can identify them if you notice a hole surrounded by white hardened skin. They often contain black specks which are clotted blood vessels. They might make it painful for you to walk.
- Flat warts – Their name is coined from the fact that they have a flat top as though they have been scraped off. They may be pink, brownish or yellowish. They often appear on the face, legs or arms.
- Genital warts – Also known as condyloma, they appear on the pubic area including the genitals, anus or vagina. They are flesh-colored, pink or red growths, sometimes so tiny that you may find it difficult to see them.
- Filiform warts – They are flesh-colored growths around the nose, mouth, neck, eyelids, and armpits. They often have a flap flag shape or long, thin thread-like forms.
Other types of warts include periungual warts (found around the toenails and fingernails) and mosaic warts which are made up of a cluster of multiple plantar warts.
The Causes and Risk Factors of Warts
There are more than a hundred different strains of HPV which cause different types of warts. The virus is spread through person to person contact or the skin coming into contact with surfaces or personal effects that a person with virus has touched or used. It can also spread to other parts of the skin of a person who already has warts.
The factors that increase your chances of getting warts include:
- Getting damaged or wet skin into contact with rough surfaces.
- Walking barefoot in public showers and swimming pools with scratches or bruises on the soles of your feet.
- Having a compromised immune system, for instance, people living with HIV/AIDS or those using immunosuppressants after a transplant.
- Handling meat on a regular basis especially among butchers and slaughterhouse workers.
Are Warts Contagious?
The human papillomavirus that causes can be spread from one person to another. Warts can also be spread from one part of your body to another. Chances of infection increase if you acquire an injury and come into contact with a person with warts or touch their personal effects such as towels and shoes.
The HPV strain that causes genital warts can be spread through sexual contact. Having protected sex with a partner who has warts in the genital area reduces the chances of acquiring warts. In women, warts may be in the cervix so they may not be aware that they have warts so they can spread them to their sexual partners unwittingly.
The following actions make warts spread to other parts of the body so try to avoid them as much as you possibly can:
- Biting fingernails if warts are present around them.
- Sucking on fingers
- Scratching of warts
- Shaving the face and legs because it could scrape or burst open warts.
How to prevent warts?
Consider the following precautions to avoid getting warts or have more spread to other parts of your body:
- Wear shoes or flip-flops when walking around public showers and swimming pools.
- Wash hands regularly when you come into contact with people with warts.
- Don’t share personal items like towels.
- Avoid scratching or picking at warts.
- Maintain dry hands and feet.
- Avoid warts while shaving.
- Cover your warts.
- Clean surfaces that have been in contact with warts, whether your own or someone else’s.
- Avoid filing or clipping nails with the same nail file or nail cutter used on infected nails with healthy nails.
- Avoid combing, brushing or clipping hair where there are warts.
There is a vaccine against the viruses that cause genital warts but not against other strains that cause other types of warts.
There are people who possess a natural resistance against warts. In spite of them coming into direct contact with warts, they will never get infected. On the other hand, the time it takes for warts to grow varies from person to person.
How to Treat Warts
Warts are essentially harmless and they eventually disappear on their own but they do cause a great deal of embarrassment. Moreover, they are unsightly growths as well as contagious.
Most people, therefore, tend to want to get rid of them. The ultimate goal of treatment is to completely destroy the wart or stimulate the immune system to fight the virus or both. There are various treatment methods available including medical and home remedies.
Home or Natural Remedies for Warts
Home remedies are most likely to be successful unless you have an underlying condition such as a weak immune system or diabetes. Furthermore, diabetes results in loss of sensation in the feet so you need to be extra careful as you may cause harm without your knowledge.
The natural treatments include:
• H-Warts Formula – a natural product containing carefully selected homeopathic ingredients and aids in the treatment of warts. Thuja occidentalis is used locally for warts symptoms and has a specific antibacterial action. Find it here!
• Garlic– Garlic compounds contain antiviral properties that impair the growth of wart cells. Apply a paste of garlic and water on the wart and wrap a bandage. Repeat this every few hours until the wart is gone.
• Duct Tape- Duct tape is used to cover the wart for several days after which it is soaked in water and the wart is rubbed with a pumice stone or an emery board to remove dead skin. This technique is suitable for children as it does not cause pain and is safe.
• Freezing– Liquid nitrogen products are available over-the-counter. They kill the cells of the wart after which you can scrape off dead skin.
• Salicylic Acid– Non-prescription peeling medicine is available in the form of patches, ointments, and liquid. Soak the wart in warm water before applying the medicine and rub off dead skin with an emery board or pumice stone.
• Aloe Vera– Apply gel from a freshly-cut leaf on a wart for a couple of days and cover it each time. Aloe Vera contains malic acid which aids in the removal of warts.
• Aspirin– Make a paste of the crushed tablet with water and cover it overnight. Repeat it every night until the wart vanishes.
Warts typically take about six months to two years to disappear on their own but if you want them gone as soon as possible, you can consult your doctor for help. A number of treatments are available:
• Cryotherapy (Freezing) – The doctor applies liquid nitrogen onto the wart. A blister forms as a result and dead tissue falls off after a week or two. Repeated treatments may be needed in order for the method to be effective. This technique also encourages the immune system to fight the virus. The method may be painful so it is not recommended to be used on young children.
• Salicylic Acid– The doctor prescribes medicine with salicylic acid that chips onto the layers of the wart little by little. Protect the surrounding skin with petroleum jelly to prevent damages. Also, avoid applying it on sensitive body parts such as the face or genitals. Combined with cryotherapy, this is one of the most effective techniques.
• Minor Surgery – Warts are shaved off with a surgical knife or razor after putting the patient under local anesthesia. Topical cream may be applied afterwards to ensure that the wart disappears completely. This is not one of the most popular methods because it may lead to scarring.
• Using Cantharidin – The doctor applies an extract from a blister beetle, prompting the forming of a blister around the wart. A bandage is then wrapped onto the affected area. The resulting blister lifts the wart off the skin and the doctor carefully removes the wart that is now dead tissue.
• Laser Treatment – The doctor focuses a strong beam of light on the wart to destroy its tissue by burning it. Just like surgery, this method often leaves scars behind so it’s only used as a last resort when other methods don’t work too well.
• Prescribed Medication– Doctors can prescribe medication such as bleomycin which is injected into a wart to kill viruses and imiquimod which is a cream that stimulates the body’s defense mechanism to fight off the wart virus.
• Candida antigen shots – The immune system does not usually notice warts. This technique stimulates the immune cells locally so that warts are recognized and fought off. The advantage of this method is that it leaves no scars but it is not appropriate for use while pregnant.
• Immunotherapy – The immune system is stimulated to encourage it to fight the virus and destroy warts.
• Retinoids – They interfere with the wart’s skin cell growth. They are derived from Vitamin A.
• Antibiotics – These are used to treat infections that arise due to warts or around warts
It is important to note that you should not use home treatments on sensitive areas such as the face and genitals. Seek medical intervention for such a case. You should also seek a doctor’s help if the wart causes pain, bleeds, changes in appearance or spreads quickly to rule out the presence of other types of skin growths
Warts may recur when removed especially if the virus is still present. That is why you may sometimes find it difficult to completely eliminate common warts. If this happens, see a doctor who will advise you on the treatment measures to take.