A wart is a viral skin infection that is characterised by small skin growths caused by any of 100 known types of human papillomaviruses (HPV). Warts can develop at any age but are most frequently seen in children and least common among older people. In children, warts often go away on their own whereas in adults, they tend to stay. Warts are most often spread from one area of the body to another, but they can also spread from one person to another. Since wart viruses are contagious, some people get a wart after touching something that another person’s wart touched, such as a towel, razor or other personal items. It is easier to catch a virus that causes warts when you have a cut or scrape on your skin. Most warts are harmless, although they may be quite bothersome. They can appear on any part of the skin, be raised or flat growths.
Warts are usually painless, except for plantar warts, especially if they are located over bony areas or at the bottom of the foot.
The following traits characterize the common wart:
- Usually grows on the fingers, around the nails, and on the backs of the hands.
- More often seen where skin was broken, such as from biting fingernails or picking at hangnails.
- Can have black dots that look like seeds (often called "seed" warts).
- Commonly feels like rough bumps.
Plantar warts have these traits:
- Usually grow on the soles (the bottom) of the feet.
- Can grow in clusters (mosaic warts).
- Often are flat or grow inward due the pressure created by walking.
- Can be painful and feel like you have pebbles in your shoe.
- Can have black dots.
Location and shape classifies warts. Some warts grow in clusters (mosaic warts), but others appear as isolated, single growths. The wart's typical appearance is usually recognized by doctors. In rare cases, growths on the skin that cannot be definitely identified may need to be removed by a doctor for examination (biopsy).
Although most warts are harmless, dermatologists do treat them. Many warts, particularly common warts, do not cause pain and disappear on their own within a year or two. When warts cause pain or become embarrassing, or if they multiply, they can be removed. Unfortunately, all types of warts may recur after removal. This means that warts can return at the same site or appear in a new spot. Plantar warts are the most difficult to cure. Following are choices that exist to treat warts.
Non-prescription medicines: Salicylic acid is available without a prescription and can be used at home. It is currently considered the most desirable wart treatment, based on its effectiveness and safety. Salicylic acid is as effective as or more effective than other treatment, with minimal risk and pain. The treatment takes 2 to 3 months.
Prescription medicine: Retinoid cream, cantharidin, bichloroacetic acid, immunotherapy are among prescription medicine used to treat warts. Some of these medicines are to be used in the doctor’s office only.
Freezing (cryotherapy): For common warts in adults and older children, cryotherapy is the most common treatment. Freezing is safe and often used for plantar warts. Multiple treatments at monthly intervals are often required, especially for large warts. Although cryotherapy can be performed in your doctor's office, a non prescription cryotherapy treatment for common warts on the hands and plantar warts can be done at home.
Surgery: Electrosurgery, curettage, laser surgery: These methods are effective but are more painful than medication and can leave a scar.
Tape occlusion (duct tape): Tape is used to cover the wart for a period of time. It usually takes 1 to 2 months to remove the wart. However, studies conflict on whether duct tape really gets rid of warts.
Pain and pressure from plantar warts can be treated with special cushions specifically designed for this purpose.
The main way to prevent warts is to avoid contact with the human papillomavirus that causes warts.
- Avoid walking barefoot on warm, moist surfaces where the wart virus may be alive. Wear flip-flops or pool shoes in public showers, locker rooms, and pool areas.
- Avoid touching warts on yourself or others. Do not share razors, towels, socks, or shoes with another person.
- Keep feet dry, as moisture tends to allow warts to spread.
- Avoid irritating the soles of your feet. Warts grow more easily if your skin has been injured or broken in some way.
Preventing warts to spread:
- Keep warts covered with a bandage or athletic tape.
- Do not bite your nails or cuticles, as this may spread warts from one finger to another.
- Do not pick or scratch at warts.
- After touching any of your warts, wash your hands carefully.
When to consult a doctor
- If you are not sure whether a skin growth is a wart. Consider seeing your doctor or another health care professional to check for skin cancer if you are older than 60 years old and have never had warts.
- If you have a wart on your face or genitals or around the anus.
- If you have many warts, warts that are growing or spreading rapidly despite treatment.
- If warts are too painful to walk on, itch, burn, or bleed.
- If signs of bacterial infection develop, including increased pain, swelling, redness, tenderness, or heat, red streaks extending from the area, discharge of pus, fever.
- If you are a patient with diabetes, never try to remove any wart on your foot. If you cut or burn your skin, it could cause lasting damage to the nerves in your feet.
- If non-prescription home treatment is not successful after 2 to 3 months.
Products that could interest you
- Dr. Scholl’s® Clear Away® Wart Remover System
- Dr. Scholl’s® Clear Away® Plantar Wart Remover System
- Dr. Scholl’s® Clear Away® Liquid Wart Remover
- Dr. Scholl’s® Clear Away® One Step® Wart Remover System
- Dr. Scholl’s® Dual Action Freeze Away® Common and Plantar Wart Remover 12 Treatments
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- Dr. Scholl’s® Freeze Away® Common and Plantar Wart Remover 12 Treatments