We all remember fairy tales of old witches who were gross and covered in warts to describe just how evil they were. Warts are very common just unsightly skin additions that anyone can have and that everyone would rather do without having. Warts are benign (not cancerous) skin growths caused by an infection in the skin’s top layer. The viral infection that causes warts is the human papillomavirus (HPV). You have probably only thought as HPV as related to sexually transmitted disease, but it really is the multitude of viruses. HPV can be highly contagious and even deadly depending on how it affects the body. For those with warts, they may want to take extra precautions and seek medical testing for specific strains. As warts are caused by a virus, they are contagious – contact with a wart or something that touched the wart can transfer it to another area or to another person. They can be skin-colored and rough but also dark, flat and smooth.
Common warts are found on the hands and are more common where skin has been broken. These are most commonly found on children who bite fingernails. Plantar warts are found on the bottom of the feet. These are harder to treat and can become painful. To avoid plantar warts, do not walk barefoot and be sure to disinfect shoes. Flat warts are commonly found on the face in large numbers, especially in areas that are shaved. Be sure to cleanse skin after shaving. Filiform warts look like long threads. This type of wart grows quickly and is found on the face.
Warts will usually go away without treatment. There are a lot of over-the-counter treatments you can find at your local pharmacy. The most important aspect of treatment is to clean the affected area and cover it so it cannot spread the virus.
If the warts do not go away within a reasonable time, you should consult your dermatologist for treatment. There are a few common treatments that will be tried first. Cantharidin is a medicine that grows a blister under the wart; when the bubble forms, the dermatologist will cut off the top that has the wart. Cryotherapy is a very popular form of treatment that freezes the wart. Another method is a cycle of burning and removing (known as electrosurgery and curettage); in this treatment, the dermatologist scrapes off the wart and burns the area to keep it from coming back. The last common practice is excising, or cutting out, the wart. For stubborn warts, laser therapy, chemical peels and immunotherapy may be necessary. There is no cure for the virus that spreads warts, but it is possible to control wart outbreaks and to prevent the spread.
If you ever develop any skin condition, it is vital that you contact your primary care provider or dermatologist immediately. Most of the time, these skin conditions are common or harmless, but you need to have a trained medical professional check them out to be safe.
The Dermatology Center of Indiana services Noblesville, Westfield, Avon, and Bloomington along with many other cities throughout Indiana. Join us today in one of our locations where you are always welcome.