What Are Warts?
Warts are raised bumps on your
skin caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts have plagued humans for
thousands of years — they have been discovered on 3,000-year-old mummies and
were mentioned by Shakespeare. Although warts are generally not dangerous, they
are ugly, potentially embarrassing, contagious, and they can be painful.
Important Information About Genital Warts
more than 100 types of HPV, the virus that causes warts. Almost all types of
HPV cause relatively harmless warts that appear on your hands or feet. However,
there are a few strains of HPV that cause warts on, in, and around your
genitals. In women, these warts — called “genital warts” — can eventually lead
to cervical cancer, a potentially fatal disease. If you think you have genital warts or think
you have been exposed to them, you should see a doctor right away.
What Are the Types of Warts?
five major types of warts. Each type appears on a different part of the body
and has a distinct appearance.
Common warts usually
grow on your fingers and toes but can appear elsewhere. They have a rough,
grainy appearance and a rounded top. Common warts are grayer than the
warts grow on the soles of the feet. Unlike other warts, plantar
warts grow into your skin, not out of it. You can tell if you have a plantar
wart if you notice what appears to be a small hole in the bottom of your foot
that is surrounded by hardened skin. Plantar warts can make walking
usually grow on the face, thighs, or arms. They are small and not immediately
noticeable. Flat warts have a flat top, as if they have been scraped. They can
be pink, brownish, or slightly yellow.
warts grow around your mouth or nose and sometimes on your neck or under your
chin. They are small and shaped like a tiny flap or tag of skin. Filiform warts
are the same color as your skin.
warts grow under and around the toenails and fingernails. They can be painful
and affect nail growth.
When Should I See a Doctor?
see your doctor if:
have warts on your face or another sensitive part of your body (e.g., genitals,
notice bleeding or signs of infection, such as pus or scabbing, around a wart
wart is painful
color of the wart changes
have warts and diabetes or an immune deficiency, such as HIV/AIDS
Can I Treat Warts at Home?
warts usually go away on their own, they are ugly and uncomfortable, so you may
want to try treating them at home. Many warts respond well to treatments
available at the drugstore.
- You can spread warts to other
parts of your body, and they are contagious to others. If a treatment requires
that you rub the wart with a fingernail file or a pumice stone, do not use that
utensil on any other part of your body, and do not allow anyone else to use it.
- Do not try to treat warts on your
feet if you have diabetes. See your doctor. Diabetes can cause loss of
sensation in your feet, so you can easily injure yourself without realizing it.
- Do not try to remove warts on
your face or another sensitive part (such as genitals, mouth, or nostrils) of
your body with at-home treatments.
treatments spray concentrated cold air (usually liquid nitrogen) onto your
wart. This kills the skin and allows you to scrape away the surface of the
wart. These treatments are a good choice if you want to try to remove a wart
quickly, but they are not strong enough to remove all warts.
Treatments and Patches Containing Salicylic Acid
You must use
these products every day, often for a few weeks. They will work best if you
soak the wart in water for about 15 minutes before you apply the treatment.
have had success treating warts with duct tape. The process involves covering
the wart with a small piece of duct tape for several days, then soaking the wart,
and, finally, rubbing the wart to remove the dead skin. This approach can take
several rounds of treatments to work.
What Can My Doctor Do About Warts?
If your wart
does not respond well to at-home treatments, your doctor may be able to help.
Remember, always see your doctor if you have diabetes and have warts on your
may freeze your wart with liquid nitrogen. This can be a bit painful but
usually works well. More than one treatment may be required. Freezing causes a
blister to form under and around your wart. This lifts the wart away from the
skin within about a week.
usually only considered if a wart has not responded to other treatments. Your
doctor can cut away your wart with a surgical knife or burn it with
electricity. You’ll need to receive a shot of anesthetic first, and these shots
can be painful. Surgery may also cause scarring.
Can Warts be Prevented?
ways to prevent warts and keep them from spreading to other parts of your body
if you already have one. Follow these simple guidelines:
your hands regularly, especially if you have been in contact with someone with
pick at your warts.
warts with a bandage.
your hands and feet dry.
shower shoes (flip-flops) when in a locker room or communal bathing facility.