What are Warts?
A wart is a harmless but contagious skin growth caused by a viral infection in the top layer of the skin. The virus that causes warts belongs to the human papilloma virus (HPV) family. They are usually benign. Warts occur in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and can develop anywhere on the body.
These growths are found mostly on the hands and known as common warts while those found on feet are known as plantar warts. A wart may be flat or smooth, or appear as a bump with a rough surface. Dark dots may also appear in the center of the wart. They also develop in clusters or alone.
Warts are unsightly and may often cause embarrassment if they are very noticeable. They sometimes cause pain, especially when pressure is placed on the wart – for instance, when walking. Warts tend to affect children and young adults more, but men and women of all ages develop them each year.
There are different types of warts and these include:
- Common warts: Common warts most often develop on the backs of the hands, on the fingers and around the nails. They have a rough appearance and the blood vessels grow in the wart look like black dots. These warts tend to appear where the skin has been broken, for instance where fingernails are bitten.
- Plantar (Foot) warts: Plantar (foot) warts are usually found on the bottom of the foot (soles) and look like hard, thick patches of skin with dark colored dots. They are extremely painful when walking and often feels as though there are stones in your shoes.
- Flat warts: Flat warts usually appear on the face, but may also appear on other parts of the body such as arms, hands or knees. They have flat tops and can be pink, light brown or light yellow. They tend to grow in clusters, as many as 20 to 100 at a time. Flat warts usually occur in children, appearing on their faces. In adults, flat warts may develop on the legs of women and in the beard area of men.
- Filiform warts: Filiform warts are long, narrow, protruding growths that usually appear around the eyelids, face, neck, mouth, lips or underarms. They are the same color as your skin. These types of warts tend to itch or bleed.
- Periungual warts: Periungual warts are found under and around the toenails and fingernails. They look like rough, uneven bumps. They can affect nail growth by causing the nail to lift or become detached.
- Genital warts: Genital vary in size – they may be small, flesh-colored bumps or they may be so tiny that are not even visible to the eye. In men, they appear between the penis and the scrotum or near the anus. In women, genital warts may develop in the vagina, on the cervix, vulva and perineal area.
What causes Warts?
Warts are caused by the virus known as the human papillomavirus (HPV) which infects the top layer of the skin, especially if the skin is damaged or broken. The virus causes the top layer of the skin to grow quickly and develops into a wart.
Warts are contagious and spread easily through direct contact. If you touch the wart and then touch another part of your body, you can re-infect yourself. Sharing personal items such as towels, eating utensils, or razors can also cause warts. People with weak immune systems are more likely to catch the wart virus than others.
The diagnoses of warts are based on a simple visual examination. If your doctor is unsure whether it is a wart or not, a skin biopsy may be performed. In the case of genital warts, a diagnosis may be confirmed by a physical examination, medical history and gynecological exam.
Help for Warts
There are various over-the-counter and prescription treatment options available to remove warts. Over-the-counter wart treatments are usually in the form of lotions, ointments and plasters (such as Dr. Scholl’s Freeze Away products) can be used to freeze the wart with a method known as cryotherapy.
These wart products contain salicylic acid to soften the skin layers that form a wart. Warts in young children may be treated at home by applying salicylic gel or plaster, or a dermatologist may use cantharidin so that a blister can form under the wart and then be clipped off.
Cryotherapy is generally the preferred method of treatment to remove warts for older children and adults. Other treatment options such as *electro-surgery and laser treatment *are also quite effective. In addition, an anti-cancer drug called bleomycin may be injected into the wart or immunotherapy may be used as an alternative.
Herbal and homeopathic remedies are more natural but still highly effective alternative treatments for warts. These remedies are safe and gentle enough to use on the body’s system while at the same time they boost the immune system and help in the elimination of warts. Herbs such as Hypoxis Rooperi (extract of African Potato), Agathosma Battling (also known as buchu), Mentha Piperita and Viscum Album help to strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection and support a healthy immune system.
Galium aperine (Cleavers) and Trifolium pratense (red clover) support skin health and act as a natural cleansing tonic and help to purify and detoxify the body’s system. Homeopathic ingredients such as Natrium muriaticum, Kalium muriaticum and Kalium sulphate keeps the skin well-hydrated while also acts as a blood and lymph cleanser, and supports the natural healing and regenerative processes of the skin.
There are different types of warts and these include:
- Practice good personal hygiene by washing your skin regularly
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet that contains fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains to boost your immune system
- Drink lots of water, at least eight glasses to flush out toxins
- Clean wounds, cuts or scrapes with soap and water or disinfectant to prevent infections or warts developing
- Avoid touching, rubbing, scratching or picking at warts as you may spread the virus to another part of the body
- Cover warts with a bandage and avoid biting your nails
- Wear waterproof sandals or flip-flops in public showers, locker rooms or around public pools to protect against infections such as athlete’s foot
- Wear open-toe sandals or shoes to allow feet to breathe
- Always use a latex condom during sexual intercourse to prevent warts from being transmitted to the cervix
- Change socks and shoes daily and keep feet clean and dry
- Apply medicated foot powder in your socks to keep feet dry