What is a Wart?
A wart is an overgrowth of cells caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are most common on the hands and feet but can grow anywhere on your body. There are five basic types of warts that you should be aware of. They all have similarities, though they look different and grow in specific areas of your body.
Planter Warts grow on the soles of your feet, and your body’s weight makes them flat and pushes them into your skin. A plantar wart looks like a callous with black spots (which are clotted blood vessels).
Filiform Warts look like towers sticking up from your skin, sometimes in clusters. They grow on the face, typically around the eyes and lips.
Common Warts usually grow on the hands and feet. They are hard bumps that range in size from a pinhead to that of a pencil eraser.
Flat Warts form on women’s legs. They can also form on men’s beard areas and children’s faces. They grow in clusters, often dozens at once.
Genital Warts are sexually transmitted. They can look like a cluster of bumps (like cauliflower), or they can show up individually.
How Warts Spread
Warts are spread by skin-to-skin contact. Once you have them, you can spread them to other people–and other parts of your body. You’re especially vulnerable to getting warts in areas where your skin is broken, and HPV can get into your body.
Preventing the Spread
It’s essential to cover warts with a bandage and clothes. Also, try not to break your skin by biting your nails and pulling on hangnails, as this can make it easier to get HPV. Not everyone who comes in contact with warts will get them. It depends on the strength of your immune system. People with chronic skin conditions—like eczema—and immune-compromised people are more likely to get warts than people without these conditions.
Your body’s immune system will often get rid of some types of warts on its own. For example, plantar warts usually go away after a couple of years. But just because they’ll eventually go away doesn’t mean they should be left untreated. It’s best to treat them so they don’t spread around your body or to someone else.
How to Remove Warts
The Skin and Cancer Institute offers a variety of treatments for removing warts, which include:
- Cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen is the most common treatment for warts. The wart is frozen and eventually falls off.
- Excision completely removes the wart with a scalpel and usually requires stitches and local anesthesia.
- Laser treatment is a good option for warts that have been resistant to other therapies.
- Chemical peels are effective for clusters of warts.
- Topical medication is the first line of treatment your dermatologist will recommend for genital warts.
- Cantharidin is applied to warts to cause a blister to form under the growth. The wart will slowly separate from the underlying tissue over a week. When the tissue is fully detached, you return to the office so your dermatologist can cut off the dead wart.
- Electrodesiccation and curettage is effective for common, filiform, and foot warts. Electrodesiccation burns the wart, and a curette scraps off the dead tissue.
When to See a Dermatologist
Your dermatologist is a wart specialist trained to diagnose and remove the five main types of warts listed above. Contact them today if you have a wart. They’re happy to help you on your journey to healthy, wart-free skin!