warts

overview

Warts are harmless growths caused by a virus that infects the top layer of skin. Warts are often raised, rough and the same color as skin, but they can also be dark colored, flat or smooth. Warts most commonly grow on hands and feet, but they can appear anywhere on the body.

There are many viruses that cause warts, but they all fall under the category of human papillomaviruses (HPV). Unfortunately, though, the vaccine that protects against certain types of HPV infection won’t prevent most warts. 

The viruses that cause warts are contagious, and warts can spread through direct skin-to-skin contact. You could even get warts if you touch a surface that’s been in contact with a wart. 

symptoms

Luckily warts are harmless, and sometimes they’ll even go away on their own. However, if you find your warts unattractive, or don’t want to spread them to other people, you may want them removed. You might also consider having warts removed if:

  • Your warts are painful or sore
  • You have more than one wart
  • Your warts won’t go away on their own 

treatment options

Treatment options for warts include:

  • Cantharidin, a solution that causes a blister to form underneath the wart. After about a week, a dermatologist cuts away the dead wart.
  • Cryotherapy (freezing) is the most common treatment. It may require more than one treatment.
  • Electrosurgery (burning the warts) and curettage (scraping them away)
  • Excision (cutting warts off)
  • Laser treatments are usually not used unless other treatments have failed.
  • Chemical peels can be the most effective treatment for a group of flat warts. Chemical peels remove the top layers of skin, which should also remove the warts.
  • Immunotherapy uses your own immune system to fight off the virus that causes warts. It’s usually reserved for warts that haven’t responded to other treatments. Your dermatologist will either apply a chemical to the wart or inject you with a drug to help boost your body’s defense system.

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