If you have lumps on the skin, in particular, on the hands or the feet, then the chances are that you have a wart. Warts can also appear on the soles of the feet where they are known as a verruca. But what is a wart? And what causes them to appear? If you are wondering about either of those things or anything else about warts and verrucas, then you have come to the right place.
Warts are small lumps that develop on the skin. There are a wide number of different types of the wart, with some appearing on their own or others in a cluster. Different types of wart appear in a different part of the body, with on the most common types of wart appearing on the sole of the feet. These are known as verrucas. If you didn’t know, a verruca is the Latin, and Italian, word for wart. Overall, there many different types of wart, which are categorised into 5 different groups:
- Common warts – These warts will normally grow on the fingers or toes but can appear anywhere. They will feel rough and have a grainy appearance and rounded.
- Plantar warts – This type of wart is what is commonly referred to as a verruca. Unlike other types of warts, a plantar wart will grow inwards which leaves the appearance of a small hole in the skin which is surrounded by hardened skin. Walking can be uncomfortable or painful when suffering from a plantar wart/verruca.
- Flat warts – These are most commonly found on the face, thighs, or arms. They are quite small and sometimes hard to notice. They can be a pink colour, brown, or yellow.
- Filiform Warts – This type of wart grows around the mouth, or the nose, or even the neck or chin. They are skin coloured and shaped like a flap of skin.
There are a wide number of different types of wart that fit into these groups. One type that requires special attention, however, is genital warts. Unlike other types of warts, genital warts can cause serious issues if left untreated. If you think you may have genital warts, speak to a doctor as soon as possible.
Warts are caused by a virus known as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus is present in the skin cells where there is a wart. HPV is a family of viruses that can affect the skin and the moist membranes of the body. There are over 100 different strains of HPV, with different strains responsible for different types of wart.
Since warts and verrucas are caused by a virus, they are contagious and can spread by direct contact. The virus can also spread through items such as towels, shoes, swimming pool areas, or flooring in public. Warts are contagious as long as they are on the body, and wet or soft skin will make it more likely that the virus spreads. They can also spread on your own body if you scratch or knock or even bite a wart. Warts will also spread if you bite nails that are infected. Shaving the face or legs when you have warts on them also increases the risk of spreading the virus.
Warts can clear up without any form of treatment. However, this can take a long time and in some cases can take up to 2 years for warts to disappear completely. When it comes to treatment, there is a number of different options that will reduce the effects of warts. However, no treatment will get rid of them completely, there is always a chance that warts may return. The treatments available for warts will work to remove them without causing any scarring. Treatments for warts include:
- Salicylic acid – Salicylic acid is the active ingredient for a wide number of different products that are designed to treat warts. It is a type of acid that is used in skin treatments. So besides warts, it can also treat psoriasis, acne, ringworm, and dandruff, as well as other skin conditions. Because of this, it is recommended that salicylic acid is only used on damaged skin as it removes the outer layer of skin. Therefore, it can potentially remove healthy skin is used incorrectly.
- Cryotherapy – Cryotherapy is a form of treatment that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy the wart. The treatment of nitrogen is applied for just a few seconds which will cause a sore blister to form and then a scab, which will fall off after 7-10 days. A session of cryotherapy generally takes up to 15 minutes and can be painful. Larger warts will require more than one treatment to fully remove, which will need weeks between each session of cryotherapy. Cryotherapy is not recommended for younger children because of the pain caused. It may be the preferred option for warts on the face, as there is less chance of irritation. If you have cryotherapy and the wart isn’t gone completely after 3 months, then the treatment is likely not going to work.
- Chemical treatments – These are prescription only treatments that work to kill skin cells when applied. Treatments include chemicals such as formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, and silver nitrate. These chemicals may burn or stain the skin, so they should be used with caution.
If none of these work, then there are other treatments available, these include light therapy, laser therapy and acupuncture for flat warts.
Preventing warts completely is difficult, as the HPV virus can affect anyone. Though there are things you can do to prevent the spread of warts to others and yourself. These things include:
- Not touching any warts which could cause them to spread
- Not sharing towels, items, or clothing with someone who has a wart
- Taking care when shaving, as a cut can cause the virus to spread
- Changing socks daily to prevent warts from developing on the feet
If you have a wart or verruca then it should be covered when swimming, in changing rooms, or using gym equipment. Doing these things when having a wart or verruca will help to prevent the spread of any infection.