What are warts?
Warts are skin growths caused by a viral infection in the top layer of the skin. The viruses that cause warts are in the human papillomavirus family. There are different subtypes of this virus that cause warts in different locations of the body. Warts are typically rough and raised, but may be smooth or flat. The four types of warts are common warts, plantar warts, flat warts, and genital warts. Common warts are usually raised and rough, and occur in areas where the skin has been broken such as around the hands and knees. Plantar warts occur on the bottom of the feet and grow down into the skin from the pressure of standing. Flat warts are small and smooth, growing in clusters most often on the legs or face. Genital warts occur on the genitalia of women and men and are sexually transmitted. Some types of genital warts are associated with cancer of the genitalia.
How do you get warts?
Warts are transmitted directly by touching another person with warts, or indirectly by touching an object with the wart virus on it. The wart virus enters through a broken area of skin. It may take months to see a wart develop after contacting the virus. Children are more susceptible to warts because their immune systems often have not sufficiently matured to recognize that the wart virus is foreign and should be attacked. Childhood warts often disappear without treatment as the body develops the ability to fight them off. However, some adults do not develop the ability to fight off the wart virus and have a wart virus "blind spot" in their immune systems.
How are warts treated?
There is no cure for warts. This is reflected in the fact that there are multiple treatments for warts, none of which is 100 percent effective. Treatment may destroy an individual wart, but the wart virus may remain in the surrounding skin causing more warts to appear. The most common treatments for warts are listed below:
- No treatment Childhood warts that are small and not bothersome to the child may be best left alone. Over 90 percent will go away within a period of years.
- Freezing (cryotherapy) This destroys the top layer of skin and peels off much of the wart. Multiple treatments may be required.
- Salicylic acid There are many over-the-counter medications containing salicylic acid. When applied over 4 to 6 weeks they may be effective in removing a wart with relatively little discomfort.
- Burning (curettage and electrodessication) This is typically reserved for warts that are resistant to other treatments. Scarring often results and the healing process may take 4 to 6 weeks.
- Aldara® cream This unique medication helps your body fight off the wart virus by increasing the amount of interferon (a natural antiviral substance) around the wart. This cream is particularly effective for genital warts, but may be effective for other types of warts as well. It may take 3 to 4 months for the warts to respond to the medicine.
- Other treatments for warts include topical cantharidin, Retin-A®, contact sensitization, bleomycin, and laser surgery.
How can Cary Dermatology help me with my warts?
Our providers have years of experience treating warts. Many of the warts we see are in children, and we will advise you on which treatments may be most appropriate for your child. We are familiar with multiple therapeutic options, and will devise a treatment plan that meets your needs.