Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is cancer that starts in the skin’s basal cells, usually due to damage from UV light (sunlight). BCC often looks like a raised, pearly lump or sore, but can form deep ulcers as it enlarges. It rarely spreads in the body.…
What are warts?
Warts are commonly small, painless lumps that grow on the skin. However they can vary in size, shape and even occur in clusters. Warts most commonly affect the hands, fingers, knees and face, but can appear anywhere on the body.
Warts are caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many different types of HPV that can cause warts. Warts can spread to other parts of the body, or to other people through direct contact. Warts may spread more easily if there is contact between injured or damaged skin, or if a wart has been scratched. It can take up to 12 months for a wart to first appear after infection with a HPV.
Anyone can get warts, but they are more common in children and young adults. You are also more likely to develop warts if you:
- Use communal showers;
- Routinely handle raw meat;
- Have a weak immune system, or;
- Have a skin infection or another chronic skin condition, such as eczema.
There are many different types of warts, which are caused by different strains of the HPV and also the way that the body's immune system reacts to the virus. The most common type of warts include:
Common warts are usually painless. They can grow anywhere on the body, but most commonly occur on the hands and fingers, elbows and knees.
Plantar warts, which are sometimes called verrucas, most commonly occur on the sole of the foot. This type of wart can become painful when weight is put on the foot, such as during walking or running.
Genital warts are a very common sexually-transmitted infection (STI) that can be spread through intimate physical contact. These warts grow near the genitals and are not always easily visible as they can be flat. Sometimes multiple warts can cluster together to form a cauliflower-like shape.
Signs and symptoms
Warts are colored white, pink or skin color and can be rough to the touch. Also, warts may look like they contain small black dots, which are clotted blood vessels.
Methods for diagnosis
Warts can usually be identified just by looking at them.
Types of treatment
Many warts will disappear on their own within a couple of years. However, there are several different methods available that can be used to remove warts. The type of treatment used to remove warts depends on how many warts you have and where they are located. Unfortunately, removing the warts does not get rid of the virus and sometimes the warts can reappear.
Your doctor may prescribe a medicated solution or cream containing salicylic or lactic acid to apply to the wart. These creams are applied directly to the wart, one or more times each week until they are gone.
Cryotherapy is a procedure that uses liquid nitrogen to destroy warts by freezing them. This is usually performed by a doctor in their office.
Laser therapy uses an intense light to destroy warts. This procedure is usually performed under an anesthetic to prevent pain.
Warts are not usually very serious. Many warts clear up by themselves within a couple of years.
There is no exact way to prevent getting the viruses that cause warts. You may be able to reduce the chances of warts spreading to other parts of your body, or to other people, by not picking or scratching warts.
- Gibbs S. & Harvey I. (2006). Topical treatments for cutaneous warts. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews CD001781.
- Kids Health Info?: Warts. Accessed 16 July 2014 from link here
- Loo S.K. & Tang W.Y. (2009). Warts (non-genital). Clinical Evidence 2009. Accessed from link here
- RACGP - Recalcitrant nongenital warts. Accessed 16 July 2014 from link here
- Warts. Better Health Channel. Accessed 16 July 2014 from link here
FAQ Frequently asked questions
What are warts?
Warts are small, painless lumps that grow on the skin. They most commonly affect the hands, fingers, knees and face, but can appear anywhere on the body.
What causes warts?
Warts are caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many different types of HPV that can cause warts. The viruses can be spread to other parts of the body, or to other people through direct contact with a wart. The viruses that cause warts may be …
Who gets warts?
Anyone can get warts, but they are more common in children and young adults. People are more likely to get warts if they: use communal showers; routinely handle meat; have a weak immune system, or; have a skin infection or another chronic skin condition, such as eczema.
How are warts treated?
There are several methods that can be used to remove warts. Warts can be removed with a medicated cream that triggers the body's immune system to destroy tissue. Warts can also be removed by freezing them with liquid nitrogen, or using a laser to destroy the wart …
Will a wart clear on its own?
In many cases warts will eventually disappear by themselves, without treatment. This can take a couple of years.
Are warts contagious?
Warts can be contagious. They can spread to other parts of the body, or to other people through direct contact with a wart. The viruses that cause warts can be spread more easily if there is contact between injured or damaged skin, or if a wart has been scratched.
Can warts be prevented?
There is no sure-fire way to prevent getting warts. You may be able to reduce the chance of warts spreading to other parts of the body by not picking or scratching warts.
Will warts keep coming back?
In some cases, even after warts are removed with treatment, they can come back.
What is a verruca?
A plantar wart is sometimes called a verruca. It is a type of wart that commonly occurs on the sole of the foot. This type of wart can become painful when weight is put on the foot, or when walking or running.