What are warts?
Warts are a very common viral infection of the skin. They affect approximately 10 % of the population. They are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus is able to attach itself to a skin cell and inject its DNA transforming the cell into a factory that produces more viral particles. There are currently over 100 different strains of HPV. Warts can infect any area of the body but the most common areas are the hands, feet (plantar warts) and the anogenital region (genital warts). Warts are generally benign but certain strains have been associated with cancers, particularly in the genital area. Warts usually appear as flesh-colored to white bumps with a very rough surface. They often have multiple small brown/black dots within the bump. The average size is 5 mm but they can get much larger. The diagnosis is made by a visual exam by a physician.
Do warts need to be treated?
Many warts are self-limited and can resolve in 2-3 years. However a large percentage of warts can persist for many years. Since warts are contagious they can spread from one skin site to another causing a person to have multiple warts. They can also enlarge and become tender and painful. They can be transmitted to other people.
How do you get warts?
Since warts are caused by the human papilloma virus we get warts only from other humans. Direct skin to skin contact is the most common method of transmission but spread through a secondary source is possible, particularly for plantar warts. A plantar wart infection is often a result of walking barefoot in an area where other people are also walking barefoot like the decking of a pool, a locker room, or a shower area. A break in the skin or a wet skin surface makes infection easier but a wart can infect normal, dry skin. Genital warts almost always are the result of sexual contact and are considered a sexually transmitted disease.
There are many ways to treat a wart but no treatment is 100% effective. Over-the-counter wart treatments include the use of salicylic acid liquids or pads that are applied for many weeks or months. A non-prescription at home freeze product is also available but this is not nearly as cold or as effective as liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is a treatment performed in a dermatologist’s office and is considered to be the best and safest of all treatment methods. Typically a wart may need 3 to 4 treatments with liquid nitrogen, each treatment separated by 2 to 3 weeks before the wart resolves. Some stubborn warts, particularly those growing around a nail or on the bottom of a foot may take much longer. Although somewhat painful, this method usually leaves little to no scar. Other wart removal methods include physician applied blistering liquids, electrical cautery and scraping, and laser.
What should I do if I have a wart?
The best option is to see a dermatologist who can make an accurate diagnosis and begin treatment immediately. Warts are more easily treated if diagnosed early when they are of a small size and few in number. At Advanced Specialty Care, our expert Dermatologists can evaluate and treat warts in any of our convenient office locations in Danbury, Norwalk, Ridgefield and Stamford, CT.