How to treat a wart

A wart is a small growth with a rough texture that can show up on the body anywhere. It may look like a firm rash, or a tiny coliflower.

Warts are caused by viruses within the family of human papillomavirus (HPV).

The appearance of a wart depends on the body and skin thickness depending on its location.

The palmar warts show up on the hand. Plantar warts have an influence on feet.

It is estimated that as many as 1 in 3 children and adolescents have warts but only 3 to 5 percent of adults. This is probably because, over time, the immune system becomes more able to prevent their development.

People with a weakened immune system have a greater chance of having warts.

Fast facts on warts

Here are some key points about warts. More detail is in the main article.

  • A wart is a small growth on the skin that may look like a solid blister or a small cauliflower.
  • Types of wart include common warts, flat warts, pigmented warts, and plantar warts.
  • Black dots in the wart are blood vessels that can lead to bleeding.
  • Most warts disappear in 1 to 5 years without medical treatment, but treatment is available for warts that are large, numerous, or in sensitive areas.
  • Treatments include salicylic acid, duct tape, cryotherapy, surgery, laser treatment, electrocautery, photodynamic therapy, chemical treatments, topical creams, cantharidin, and antigen shots.
  • Warts or verrucae should be covered up with a waterproof Band-Aid when swimming.

Treatment

Palmer wart
Palmer warts are present on the hand and are common in those who treat meat for a living.

Despite medication most warts clear up. Depending on the location and number of warts, it can take from a few weeks to some years. For kids they usually disappear more quickly.

It is estimated that one third of children have warts, but studies have found that 50 percent of them disappear within a year, and 70 percent disappear after 2 years.

If they do not disappear, however, or if a wart triggers concern, medical aid is available.

A doctor may examine the wart, may inquire about family history, and may take some tissue for examination.

What treatments are available?

All wart therapies are intended to irritate the skin, and to remove the warts with the body’s own infection-fighting cells.

Salicylic acid

There is salicylic acid in most over- the-counter creams, gels, paints, and medicated Band-Aids.

Before applying this treatment, it is important to protect the skin around the wart, because salicylic acid may destroy healthy skin. Do not apply facially.

Applying petroleum jelly or a plaster of corn to the skin around the wart will protect it against damage.

Some tips may make this treatment more effective.

  • Soften the wart by rubbing dead tissue from the surface of the wart weekly using a pumice stone or emery board. Make sure that the pumice stone or emery board is not used on any other part of the body or by another person.
  • Before applying the medication, soak the wart in water for about 5 minutes

Treatment is normally given daily for approximately 3 months. If the skin is irritated it should stop treatment.

Cryotherapy

Freezing liquid, often nitrogen, is sprayed onto the wart and the cells are destroyed. A blister develops which ultimately scabs and falls off about a week later.

A health-care professional must perform this treatment. If the wart is large, a local anaesthetic and several sessions may be required.

Pharmacies sell, for self-administration, dimethyl-ether or propane spray. These should not be used on the face, and are less effective than a qualified professional performing cryotherapy.

Surgery

A dermatologist can use cryotherapy to remove warts.
A dermatologist can use cryotherapy to remove warts.

This is not normal for warts and there is a possibility for scarring. Warts which resolve on their own do not scar.

A doctor may sometimes recommend surgery if other therapies haven’t worked.

Under local anesthesia, most warts can be rasped off with an operative razor.

Doctors may recommend applying a topical cream to the site even after removal of the wart, to improve its clearing chances.

Laser treatment utilizes an accurate laser beam to destroy the wart.

Cantharidin

A doctor can apply a substance to the warts which contains an insect extract called a blister beetle and other chemicals. The region is then covered in a bandage.

This is painless but it causes an painful rash. The blister lifts the wart from the skin, and the doctor removes the portion of the wart that is dead.

Candida antigen shots

The human immune system does not notice a wart but some activated immune cells in the area will recognize it and take action if the system is locally stimulated. This procedure does not leave out any scarring.

This therapy may not be necessary during pregnancy.

Other treatments

If warts do not respond to standard treatments, a dermatologist, or skin specialist, may offer other options.

  • Immunotherapy attempts to make the patient’s immune system destroy the warts
  • Bleomycin, or Blenoxane, can be injected into the wart to kill the virus. Bleomycin is also used for treating some types of cancer.
  • Retinoids, derived from vitamin A, disrupt the wart’s skin cell growth.
  • Antibiotics are only effective in the case of infection.

Common warts, particularly around the fingernails and toenails, can be hard to completely or permanently remove.

If the wart is gone but the virus stays in place, warts can recur.

Types

The following are the most common types of wart.

Common warts, or verruca vulgaris

Plantar warts appear on the base of the foot.
Plantar warts appear on the base of the foot.

Common warts have a solid, raised, rough surface and may seem like a cauliflower.

They can occur anywhere, but the knuckles, fingertips, elbows, knees and any region with broken skin are most common.

Clotted blood vessels are often visible as small, blurred spots in common warts. These are called seed warts.

Plantar warts

Appearing painful verrucae on the feet, heels and toes soles.

Normally, they develop into the skin because the weight of the individual moves onto the foot sole. Typically they have a small central black dot surrounded by rough, white fabric. The plantar warts are often hard to remove.

Plane warts, or verruca plana

Plane warts are hard, smooth and round. We can be brownish, yellowish or colored with fur.

Also known as flat warts, we most often grow on areas exposed to sunlight.

They tend to grow in greater numbers, perhaps 20 to 100. They will most likely disappear without treatment, though, of all forms of warts.

Filiform warts, or verruca filiformis

The filiform warts are long in length and small. The eyelids, ears, and armpits will grow rapidly.

Mosaic warts

Mosaic warts in a large cluster are multiple plantar Warts.

Unlike moles, warts sometimes come in the same color as the skin of the body. Warts do not produce pus even when they get contaminated.

When infection happens they may need antibiotic treatment.

When should I see a doctor?

It is a good idea to see a doctor if the wart:

  • causes pain
  • bleeds easily
  • changes appearance
  • spreads easily to other parts of the body
  • comes back after prior removal
  • appears in an area that leads to constant bumping and bleeding so as to affect daily activities, such as shaving, sports, and so on

Individuals wishing the wart to be removed should see a specialist for cosmetic reasons.

Insurance is unlikely to cover medical surgery but all warts can be treated by primary care doctors, dermatologists, and podiatrists.

Causes

HPV viruses cause keratin to expand quickly and rapidly, which is a strong protein on top of the skin.

Similar strains of HPV cause different warts. The wart-causing virus can be transmitted by direct contact with the skin and skin, and by contact with towels or shoes.

The virus will spread through other parts of the body:

  • scratching or biting a wart
  • sucking fingers
  • biting fingernails, if there are warts around the nails
  • shaving the face or legs

The risk of infection is increased by having wet or damaged skin, and coming into contact with rough surfaces.

A person with bruises or cuts on the soles of his feet, for example, is more likely to develop a verruca in and around public swimming pools.

It may help to prevent this by wearing shower shoes or flip flops while using public showers or walking near public swimming pools.

The risk of another person getting warts is small but they can be passed on, especially if the person has a compromised immune system. It includes people with HIV or AIDS, and those who undergo a transplant using immunosuppressants.

Genital warts are becoming more infectious.

The handling of meat as a trade often increases the risk of developing warts. A study conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicists has shown that 33% of slaughterhouse workers and 34% of supermarket butchers have warts on hand.

Genital warts

Many warts are harmless, but certain HPV strains can cause warts on, in, or around the genitals.

These warts are potentially more extreme. They can potentially cause cervical, anal, and vulvovaginal cancer in women. L

In men, glans penis anal cancer and cancer may also develop as a result of infection with certain forms of genital warts.

Anyone who develops genital warts must meet with their doctor for review.

Home remedies

Home remedies for warts in the past have included rubbing a dusty, dry toad on them.

Other suggestions are:

Hypnosis: Case studies have suggested that hypnosis might help with warts removal. If this does work, the drug could somehow activate the immune system to fight the virus that causes the warts. Nonetheless, it needs more research to validate its efficacy.

Garlic: Compounds found in garlic can have antiviral activity and help stop the growth of viral cells. It is stated that chloroform garlic extracts applied to warts clear the growths in 3 to 4 months. It’s not known whether rubbing garlic on a wart will have the same effect.

Duct tape: A duct tape of the same size as the wart was placed directly onto the wart in one study, and removed after 6 days. The participants then soaked the wart in water, before they rubbed it with an emery board or pumice stone. They then left the open until the next day. They had the process replicated for up to 2 months. The wart has disappeared in 85 percent of cases, compared to 60 percent in another group of warts treated with cryotherapy. This is not an evidence-based treatment, but as it is painless and safe it can be useful for children.

Prevention

To reduce the risk of catching or spreading warts:

  • Do not touch other people’s warts.
  • Do not use other people’s towels, washcloths, or other personal items.
  • Do not share shoes and socks with other people.
  • Do not scratch warts or verrucae, as this can cause them to spread.
  • Wear sandals when entering and exiting communal showers and pools.
  • Cover warts or verrucae with a waterproof covering when swimming, and socks or gloves elsewhere, for example at the gym.
  • Do not brush, comb, shave, or clip hair in areas that have warts.
  • When filing or cutting nails do not use the same utensil on the infected nail and the healthy nails.
  • Do not bite fingernails if warts are near them.
  • Keep hands as dry as possible.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after touching a wart.

Warts are popular, and can result in embarrassment. Can disappear alone but treatment can often help eliminate them if they do not.

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