Warts are harmless skin growths caused by a virus. Warts can grow on any part of the body. Their appearance depends on the location. On the face and tops of the hands, warts are raised. On the soles of the feet, the tissue becomes thickened from the pressure of standing and the warts (called plantar warts) are flatter. Walking on plantar warts is sometimes painful. Warts have a rough surface on which tiny, dark dots can often be seen.
What causes warts?
Warts are common and can be a nuisance. They may bleed if injured. Common warts never turn cancerous. Since warts are caused by a virus, they are contagious. Warts may spread on the body or to other people. There is no way to prevent them.
What treatments are available for warts?
People have been trying to cure warts for thousands of years. The “success” of folk remedies for warts is due to the fact that warts often disappear by themselves, especially in young children. However, the average time to clearance may be as long as two years. This spontaneous disappearance is less common in older children and adults.
Since we are unable to kill the wart virus, there is no single perfect treatment of warts. In the past, most treatments were physical means used to destroy the outer layer of skin that the wart grows on, thus ridding the body of the wart. This can be done with chemicals or by freezing with liquid nitrogen. Warts most often require multiple treatments, typically as many as 5 to 10, before fully clearing.
Recently, techniques to stimulate the immune system and clear the warts by mimicking the way our body naturally clears warts have been introduced. An oral medication that stimulates the immune system has been used for warts that are multiple and difficult to resolve. Another immune stimulant is applied at home directly to the wart. The treatment to be used on your wart depends on its location and size, your type of skin and the judgment of the dermatologist.
Sometimes new warts will form while existing ones are being destroyed. All we can do is treat the new warts when they become large enough to be seen. No matter what treatment is used, warts occasionally fail to disappear. Warts may return weeks or months after an apparent cure. If a wart recurs, call to make an appointment for further therapy. Treatments may be repeated.