What are warts?

Warts are non-cancerous skin growths caused by a type of virus that infects the top layer of the skin. Wart viruses are highly contagious and can easily spread by contact with the wart or something that touched the wart.

What are the causes of warts?

Warts are caused by a type of virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). These viruses can easily be spread through touch, especially if the skin is cut or damaged. Although anyone can become infected with a wart virus, children and those with a weakened immune system are at higher risk. Warts are more common in areas that are frequently shaved such as the beard or legs. People who bite their nails or pick at hangnails are also more prone to warts. It is possible to spread warts from one place in the body to another.

What are the symptoms of warts?

Although most warts are skin-colored and rough feeling, they come in several different types, differentiated by their appearance and their location on the body.

Common warts (also called vurruca vulgaris) are most common on the fingers and hands and around the nails. They most often feel like rough bumps but sometimes have black dots (called seed warts).

Foot warts (also called plantar warts) grow on the soles of the foot and can be difficult to treat. They are often flat and grow inward from the pressure of walking. Due to this, they are often painful because it can feel like walking on small stones.

Flat warts are another type that can occur almost anywhere. They are smaller and smoother than other types of warts, but they tend to be more numerous, sometimes with several dozen at a time. Children tend to get them on the face, while adults tend to get them in areas where they shave, on the legs for women and on the beard area for men.

Filiform warts are the most uncommon. They resemble long threads or thin fingers. They often grow quickly and near the nose, eyes and mouth.

What is the treatment and diagnosis?

Wart are usually easy to diagnose with an examination by a dermatologist at Dermatology of Seattle. In rare cases, a skin biopsy may be recommended.

Although there is no permanent cure for the wart virus, warts often disappear without treatment, especially in children. Although there are several effective home remedies for warts including salicylic acid, if you are unable to get rid of the warts on your own or if they cause you pain, a dermatologist can also provide many effective treatment options. Cryotherapy (freezing) is the most common removal method although it may be necessary to repeat the treatment. Other options include cantharidin, a topical chemical that is “painted” on and will cause a blister under the wart, which can then easily be removed. Cutting the wart off using a surgical knife and cauterizing the area is another good treatment option for many types of warts.