Healthy Living

What Are Warts?

What Are Warts?

Warts are small growths on the skin that are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). These warts may develop on different parts of the body. They are most commonly seen in children between the ages of 12-16 years old. Most of these warts disappear within a few months, while some of them may remain for a few years before vanishing.

Different Types of Warts

  • Common skin warts – This type is often seen on hands and fingers. They may also be found on other parts of the body. These grayish or brownish colored warts are conical in appearance and have a rough texture.
  • Periungual warts – Warts found under toes and finger nails. They have rough edges and surfaces.
  • Plantar warts – These are hard skin growths found on the soles of the feet. They cause pain while walking.
  • Flat warts – They develop on the face, arms, and legs. Often found in yellow, pink, or light brown colors, these warts can be distinguished from others by their flat surface.
  • Filiform warts – Warts found near the mouth, nose, and chin regions belong to the filiform type. These outgrowths are skin colored with thread-like structures sticking out of them.

The HPV infection of the skin usually occurs in an area where the skin is broken or injured. Infection often occurs in the superficial layers and causes the skin cells to divide and grow rapidly. This results in the formation of warts.

There are many different types of HPV that may cause infection. These viruses spread from one person to another through direct contact. The infection may spread from one part of the body to another by touching it. Some other common ways of spreading the infection include sharing personal effects such as towels, razors, and other items. The chances of developing a wart after exposure to HPV vary depending on the individual.

Warts can form in different sizes, shapes, and on different parts of the body. They often look like small, rough bumps on the skin. Most cases of warts do not require any special treatment. Some simple home remedies can be helpful in treating these irritating skin growths. Salicylic acid is a very common method used for controlling warts. Salicylic acid may be available in the form of gels, pads, and plasters. Freezing the warts using aerosol treatment is another method. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Viruses such as HPV can cause the growth of keratin, which is a form of hard protein that covers the skin.

The different types of HPV strains can cause warts of different forms. The warts can be spread when direct contact is made with an infected person or their personal items such as towels, shoes, or razors.

The virus can also spread to other parts of the body through:

  • Sucking or kissing the fingers
  • Biting fingernails near the warts
  • Shaving the face or legs
  • Coming in the contact with rough surfaces with wet and smooth skin

Having wet or damaged skin and coming into contact with rough surfaces increases the risk of infection.

A person with scratches or cuts on the soles of their feet is more likely to develop a verruca in and around public swimming pools.

The risk of catching warts from another person is low; however, they can still be passed on, especially if the person has a compromised immune system. This includes people with HIV or AIDS, and those using immunosuppressants following a transplant.

According to a study, about 35 percent of butchers who handle meat everyday have warts on their hands. Even 34 percent of laborers have warts on the hands due to the everyday work of fish and meat handling.

Treatment of Warts

The different types of warts include common warts, flat warts, and pigmented warts. There is also a rare type of warts known as plantar warts. These warts become reddish with a black dot at the center. Mostly, these warts appear predominantly in children 1-5 years of age. The warts may disappear on their own without any treatment; however, if the warts are larger in size, they will require proper medical treatment from a physician.

Some of the treatments for warts include:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Duct tape
  • Cryotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Laser treatment
  • Electrocautery
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Chemical treatments
  • Topical creams
  • Cantharidin
  • Antigen shots

Plantar Warts – Most commonly, plantar warts appear on the base of the foot; however, they can also appear on the fingers, toes, knees, and the areas around broken skin. They are firm and have rough surfaces. The most commonly observed aspect in these warts is the clotted blood vessels with dark spot at the center of the wart. These warts are very painful and can grow in any part of the skin, especially on the toes, feet, and heels.

Plantar warts are especially painful when located on the feet. This is due to the pressure placed upon these warts while walking. Plantar warts are yellowish or brownish in color. When plantar warts begin to form, they grow in multiple numbers that can reach anywhere between 20-100. These warts do not require any treatment and usually go away on their own.

Filiform warts or verruca filiformis – The filiform warts are long and thin in shape. These warts grow on areas such as the eyelids, stomach, neck, and arms.

Mosaic warts – This type of wart is similar to plantar warts and can appear in multiple numbers and in large clusters. Mosaic warts are skin colored in appearance. When infected, there will be the presence of pus within the warts. If infection occurs, the warts will require treatment with antibiotics

Genital warts – The time taken for warts to go away varies between individuals. It can range from a few weeks to several years, depending on the location and number of warts. They tend to disappear faster among young children. The wart treatments irritate the skin and make the body's own infection-fighting cells go after the warts and clear them.

If an individual suffering from warts wishes to swim, they must always remember to cover the warts with a waterproof band-aid prior to entering the water. This bandage should cover the affected area completely.

Salicylic acid is considered the most useful and highest preferred treatment for warts. Salicylic acid offers various forms of medications including creams, gels, paints, and even medicated band-aids. The acid keeps the warts under control. Salicylic acid helps both cure warts and remove unwanted spots.