Small, rough skin growths, warts are non-cancerous viral infections. Usually, warts appear on the hands and feet, although they can develop in other areas. Warts occur more frequently when the skin has sustained damage which contributes the high frequency of warts in children who bite their nails or pick at hangnails. People with lowered immune systems may be more likely to develop warts.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes warts and over 100 types of HPV viruses exist. To produce warts, the virus resides in the bottom of the epidermis and replicates into almost normal-looking skin. You can contract warts through person-to-person contact with the wart. Generally harmless, warts can itch, hurt, and cause embarrassment.
Types of Warts
Common types of warts include:
- Common Warts
Often called seed warts because the blood vessels running to the wart produce black dots that look like seeds, common warts usually appear on the fingers, around the nails and on the backs of the hands.
- Plantar (foot) Warts
Found on the soles, or plantar area of feet, plantar warts do not stick up above the surface like common warts because the pressure of walking flattens them and pushes them back into the skin. Foot warts can be painful.
- Flat Warts
Smaller and smoother than other warts, flat warts tend to grow 20 to 100 warts at any one time. Flat warts appear most often on the children’s faces, women’s legs and the beard area in men.
- Genital Warts
Also referred to as venereal warts or condylomata acuminata, genital warts are a sexually transmitted disease that a person contracts through sexual contact. Genital warts can be associated with cervical cancer. Vaccines can help prevent but do not treat this type of warts in men and women.
Look for these signs of warts:
- Groups of small, flat, smooth lesions on arms, cheeks, forehead, or legs
- Growths occurring near or under fingernails or toenails
- Round, rough, or oval lesions on soles of feet
- Small, flat, hard, or raised skin lesion
For warts not found on the face or genitals, you can start with over-the-counter medications. Apply them to the wart every day for several weeks. To remove persistent warts, your doctor may use stronger prescription medicines such as podophylin or salicylic acid. Laser treatment, surgical removal, freezing and burning (electrocautery) can also be used if necessary.
To reduce the chances of developing warts, remember:
- Avoid contact with warts
- Cover feet in public showers or lockers
- Do not aggravate or pick at a wart
- Keep skin as dry as possible
- Use a condom during intercourse
- Wash hands thoroughly after contact with a wart
- Do not shave if warts are in hair-bearing areas