Warts are benign growths on the skin or mucous membranes caused by the human papilloma virus. They can vary is size and shape. Some may be flat and smooth; others may be round with a rough texture. They are usually harmless and disappear on their own.

Warts can affect anyone and can be found on any part of the body. They are particularly common in children and teenagers. Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and can be easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact. A person can spread them by simply touching the wart, then touching other areas of the skin. There is a balance between the virus and the individual’s immune system. Situations that reduce immunity will make it easier for the warts to spread and become more susceptible.

Verruca Vulgaris (the common wart): These are thickened bumps called papules or plaques. They have a rough surface and frequently will have small tiny spots, which are from blood vessels that have clotted. They are most commonly seen on the hands, elbows and knees.

Flat Warts: These are flat-topped, smoother looking warts. They are brown or skin-colored and are most commonly seen on the face and legs. This type of wart is easily spread by shaving.

Plantar Warts: These are seen on the under-surface of the feet tend to grow into the skin rather than coming outwards as most other warts. They are often confused with corns or calluses. They will frequently have small black dots that appear on the surface of the wart. They can sometimes be uncomfortable if they are in weight-bearing areas of the sole. Occasionally they can be quite widespread involving large surfaces.

Genital Warts: These appear in the genital and/or peri-anal skin. They have a variety of appearances. They can look like common warts or sometimes they are small skin-colored papules. They vary in size from tiny papules to much larger warty growths. Occasionally they are pigmented. They have a small chance of becoming cancerous. HPV 16 -18 subtypes have a cancerous potential, especially for the cervix. Anal carcinomas are also linked with this virus.

If you are unsure about of a wart’s appearance, consult with a dermatologist.

Common symptoms of warts include:

  • Small round areas of skin that become thickened
  • Warts can either grow into the skin or outwards

Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and are spread by direct skin-to-skin contact. There are more than 150 different types of human papilloma viruses. These are DNA viruses. The different types are given numbers. It appears that each number either gives a specific type of wart or a specific location. There is an uncommon type of human papilloma virus that can have a potential to develop cancers especially in the cervix. These are known as Type 16 and 18. It is likely that the virus will reside permanently in the skin even if the wart itself has disappeared. Those who have a suppressed immune system have a difficulty eradicating warts.

Warts tend to thrive more in moist conditions so try to keep the skin were warts are present dry.

The most effective way to prevent warts is to avoid direct physical contact with a person who has them. If you already have warts, you can prevent spreading them by not scratching or picking at them. Cover warts with an adhesive bandage to prevent accidentally touching them. If you do touch a wart, wash your hands thoroughly immediately afterwards. Avoid shaving any area that has warts. You may accidentally cut and spread them to other areas of your skin. Barrier methods during sexual intercourse give some protection.

Over-the-counter sprays that freeze the wart off can be used, but special care needs to be taken to avoid scarring, especially on the face.

A doctor may prescribe medications such as retinoids to treat flat warts. Topical immiquimod is approved for genital warts and is also used for warts in other locations. Salicylic acid is helpful in breaking down the thickened skin on the surface. It is more effective if the area is covered. These are useful for warts on the hands, knees and feet.

For more persistent warts, medical procedures such as cryotherapy, electrodessication and CO2 lasers may be used to remove them.