Caused by the human papillomavirus (or HPV), warts can form on any part of the body. Warts are skin growths that may appear when a person has contracted HPV. The virus causes an infection in the upper layer of the skin, which results in benign growths that can appear typically on areas such as the hands and feet. The virus is contagious, and warts can be spread by contact.
Warts are typically skin-colored, but they may also appear dark brown. They can be flat or bumpy, rough or smooth. With a proper skin care evaluation, patients can generally receive a confirmed diagnosis and discuss treatment options for removal. Diagnosis can be done with a simple evaluation, but occasionally a biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
While warts may go away on their own without treatment—especially for children—they can be unsightly. In some cases, they may also be painful, particularly when on places such as the hands and feet. Patients can discuss with a dermatologist their options for treatment, which may include:
Excision is a method of cutting the wart out of the skin.
This method of removal is also known as freezing, and removes the wart quickly and easily.
Cantharidin is a formula that can be applied to a wart to cause it to blister underneath, allowing the dermatologist to remove the dead wart at a follow-up visit.
This is used to soften and thin out thick warts, particularly on the feet.
This method of wart removal requires the dermatologist to scrape the wart off the skin under local anesthesia in conjunction with electrosurgery.
There are ways to help prevent the formation of warts. If they are already present, patients are warned to avoid picking and scratching at the warts, as this can cause them to spread. Warts on the feet should be kept dry to prevent spreading, since moisture can encourage continued growth. Patients without warts should avoid touching warts on other individuals and should wear appropriate footwear when walking around in public areas such as locker rooms, showers, and pools.