Warts are non-cancerous skin growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts are contagious and can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. Immunosuppressed people and those who often handle meat are at increased risk for developing warts.
Types of warts
Warts can appear anywhere on the body, but most often develop on the hands and feet. Common types of warts include:
- Common wart: Verruca vulgaris is flesh-colored and firm with a rough surface. These warts commonly occur on the fingers, hands, and knees. They may appear as a single lesion or in a small cluster. These warts often contain one or more tiny black dots, which are small, clotted blood vessels.
- Flat wart: Verruca plana is flesh-colored and sharply defined with a flat surface that may be slightly raised. These warts are small and usually appear in multiples, often forming a straight line pattern. They are most commonly found on the hands, face, and shins.
- Genital warts: Condyloma acuminata is a flesh-colored, cauliflower-like lesion that can vary in size. These warts develop in the pubic area, including on the penis, labia, or anus. They may grow together to form larger plaques.
- Plantar wart: Verruca plantaris is a flesh-colored or light brown lesion with a sharply defined shape. These warts can be painful and may be covered with a thick, rough callus. They most often grow on the soles of the feet.
Treatment for warts
Warts typically disappear on their own over time. If they are irritating or painful, we can remove them through various treatments:
- Bleomycin injections: This drug can be used in severe cases to kill the virus.
- Candida antigen injections: This drug stimulates the body’s immune system to fight off the wart.
- Cantharidin: This causes the skin under the wart to blister. When the blister dries and comes off, the wart comes off with it. Multiple treatments may be necessary.
- Cryotherapy: This method freezes off the wart with liquid nitrogen. Multiple treatments may be necessary.
- Electrodessication: We can burn off the wart with electric currents.
- Imiquimod (Aldara): This drug treats genital warts by stimulating the body’s immune system.
- Laser therapies: We can burn off the wart using an intense beam of light.
- Podophyllin: This resin can remove genital warts by stopping cell growth.