Warts is a very common skin condition. Although everyone has got their own idea as to what causes them and how to get rid of them, these are the facts.
What causes warts?
- HPV (Human papilloma virus) causes warts by infecting the top layer of skin
- it causes a skin growth by gaining entry through a broken area of skin and causing it to grow rapidly
- the virus can spread, resulting in warts forming in other areas of the body
- there are many different types of warts: flat, common, plantar, periungual and filiform warts.
- Genital and anal warts are sexually transmitted.
These conditions can put you at a higher risk for getting warts
- your age: warts occur most commonly in children and young adults
- immune suppression (corticosteroids, HIV, organ transplant patients, chemotherapy)
- biting your fingernails or cuticles
- walking barefoot on wet/damp surfaces such as: swimming pool areas, changing rooms and showers
- sweaty feet
- sharing of razors and bath towels
Warts can spread
You can infect yourself again by touching the wart and touching another part of your body and you can infect another person if you have warts and share personal items.
When should I see a doctor about my wart?
- if it’s painful. This is often the case with plantar warts, which are found on the sole of the foot
- if you aren’t sure if it is a wart
- if you are a diabetic
- if the wart has become infected. Indications of this are: pus, redness, warmth, swelling, tenderness, red lines from the wart
- if the wart is spreading or getting bigger, despite treatment
- if you are over 50 years of age, and especially if you haven’t ever had warts before (a doctor may need to perform a skin biopsy to check if you have skin cancer
- if the wart is affecting your self-esteem because you feel it looks ugly
- if it’s a genital or anal wart: these are sexually transmitted and require specific treatment
Do warts need to be treated, and if so, what can be done about them?
It depends because the immune system can fight off HPV. Therefore, not all warts need to be treated and they often disappear over a period of weeks to months, but if they don’t, treatment is necessary.
There are different treatment options, which include:
- over-the-counter remedies
- prescription medications
In many cases, the course of treatment may take a number of weeks or months. If these treatments don’t work, there are other options such as using liquid nitrogen, electrocautery and chemical peels. It’s important to ask your doctor about these treatments and discuss any negative side effects.