Doctor Sussamn's Blog
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
The warts commonly seen on the skin are caused by a viral infection. The culprit is one of the HPVs (human papillomaviruses) that can be spread from person to person or be acquiredthrough contact with a contaminated surface.
Learn about wart treatment and prevention »
Warts are local growths in the skin caused by human papillomavirus(HPV) infection. There are over 100 types of HPV. Some HPV types infect the genital and oral mucosa and produce large masses, some of which may become cancerous. Other HPV types are responsible for benign common skin warts that are not associated with cancer. Although warts are considered to be contagious, it is not uncommon for just one family member to have them. In addition, they often affect just one part of the body (such as the hands or the feet), but they can be spread to other areas by picking them. The form taken by the wart infection seems to be dependent on the genetic type of the wart virus and its anatomical location. For example, the same type of wart virus can cause common hand warts as well as plantar warts.
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Common warts can be annoying to anyone. It is worth considering that, in normal people, half of all warts, on average, spontaneously go away within about 18 months. The information in this article is about the treatment of common warts. It does not apply to venereal or genital warts. Over-the-counter treatment for common skin warts has long been based upon the use of products containing salicylic acid to destroy the wart. Newer nonprescription wart treatments include carbon dioxide aerosols to freeze warts.
These are available as drops, gels, pads, and plasters. They are designed for application to many types of warts, from tiny ones to larger ones. Salicylic acid is a keratolytic medication, which means it dissolves skin protein (keratin), which makes up most of the mass of the wart and the thick layer of dead skin that often surmounts it.
Nonprescription freezing methods
Aerosol wart treatments that are available over the counter use sprays that freeze warts at a temperature of minus 90 F (minus 57 C). This compares with the liquid nitrogen used by most dermatologists, which is considerably colder (minus 320 F or minus 196 C). The over-the-counter products do not work nearly as well as the colder agents applied by a doctor.
It has been reported that warts can be treated by covering them with duct (duck) tape or other nonporous tape, such as electrical tape. This treatment requires that the tape must be left in place all the time and removed only a few hours once per week. The tape must be replaced frequently. Many are of the opinion that this is no better than a placebo, based on published studies.
It is important to follow the directions when treating warts with nonprescription medications. If salicylic acid gets on normal skin, it can cause burning or redness but rarely infection or scarring. The skin returns to normal when the individual stops applying the salicylic acid product. Still, it's probably better not to use salicylic acid on sensitive areas like the face or groin, where it's likely to make nearby skin raw and uncomfortable. It generally is recommended that salicylic acid not be used in people with diabetes or in areas where there is poor circulation. Likewise, nonprescription freezing products are also reasonably safe but must be used carefully and only according to package instructions because they work by destroying living tissue.
Above all, wart treatments require patience. The fact that there are a wide variety of wart treatments is evidence for the fact that there is no single best therapy. Warts can appear and disappear without an identifiable cause and often disappear on their own without treatment. Some warts sprout daughter warts near the main wart and others don't. Warts are generally painless unless they are present in areas prone to pressure or friction like the palms and soles. Certain warts, even of the same type, respond to treatment, while others (even on the same person at the same time) don't. Treatment methods may require many sessions over weeks, months, or longer.
Here is a practical approach to the treatment of warts:
With an all-but-impossible case, don't try too hard. Don't make the treatment worse than the disease. Here are some examples:
If these treatments fail, see a doctor to freeze the wart with liquid nitrogen or burn it with an electric needle. First, however, make sure that the doctor treats warts in this manner (or some related manner) since some primary doctors do not use special methods and may refer individuals to a dermatologist.
Other treatments a doctor may use are
Unless warts are very large and uncomfortable, surgical removal or aggressive laser surgery to remove the warts is generally avoided because of the likelihood of scarring. Since warts are caused by a virus, they may recur following attempts at surgical removal or any other type of therapy. Currently, there is no evidence that vaccination against sexually acquired HPV types has any effect on the prevention or treatment of common wart infections.
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Tags: Wart removal
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