MOST people will get a wart at some point in their life.
But what exactly are they and how do you get rid of them? We explain.
A thumb wart after freezing treatment[/caption]
What are warts?
Warts are small lumps on the skin which spread easily.
They feel firm and rough, and usually appear on palms, knuckles, knees and fingers.
Sometimes they form in clusters, but they often appear alone.
There are several major types of warts: common, plantar, flat, filiform, and periungual.
Common warts usually grow on your fingers and toes, though they can appear elsewhere, and tend to be rough and greyish.
Plantar warts, also known as verrucas, are warts on the soles of your feet and may have tiny black dots in the centre.
Warts on the face, thighs and arms which are small and not immediately noticeable are known as flat warts.
Filiform warts are most common around the mouth, nose and eyes and look like tiny flaps of skin.
Warts under and around the nails are called periungual warts and are common in people who bite their nails.
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Generally, warts are harmless – however, they can be itchy and painful, and they sometimes stick around for years.
There is another category of warts which are treated differently from other types.
As the name suggests, genital warts are those which appear on the or around the vagina, penis or anus.
What causes warts?
Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
This causes an excess amount of keratin – a hard protein – to develop in the top skin layer which results in the hard texture of a wart.
They have existed for thousands of years and can be caught by close skin-to-skin contact.
Infection can also spread indirectly from contaminated surfaces such as swimming pools and showers.
How do I get rid of warts?
Most warts are nothing to worry about and can be treated over the counter.
However, if they are causing discomfort, have changed dramatically in appearance, or are bleeding or spreading, people are urged to speak to a doctor.
There are several treatment options available, which include:
- Salicylic acid – creams, gels, paints and plasters available over the counter
- Chemical treatment – formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, or silver nitrate available on prescription
- Cryotherapy – freezing with liquid nitrogen
- Light or psychodynamic therapy – light-sensitive medicine and a light source to destroy abnormal cells
- Laster therapy – Highly targeted beam
- Acupuncture – needles on certain ear points
Surgery is not usually recommended for warts.
Genital warts should be treated at a specialist sexual health clinic.
This usually involves a cream or liquid, freezing, or surgery.