What are warts?
Warts are a growth on the skin that is caused by Human Papillomavirus . Usually, it occurs on broken skin as the virus can easily enter through the top layer of the skin. As a result of the infection, the skin top layer experiences rapid growth resulting in what is called a wart. In most of the cases, warts subside by themselves in a few months or years.
Warts may grow on any part of your body and they can grow bigger and are prone to spread to other parts of the body as well. The human immune system is quite powerful to destroy the papillomavirus which leads to the formation of warts. But they come back after a year or two, demanding for treatment.
All parts of the body are susceptible to warts and they are of different kinds too. Common warts are usually found on hands but may occur in other parts of the body too. The feet soles are the location for plantar warts, another common type of wart.
Even though warts are normally harmless, they can be painful and irritable. Also, it is very irritating as warts grow bigger and start spreading to other parts of the body.
What does a wart look like?
They are small and may vary from the size of a pinhead to a pea shape structure .
- Rough, hard bumps
- Fleshy growth
- A tiny bump
What are the different types of warts?
Types of warts:
- Common warts: This is the type of warts which usually grows at the fingers or toes of the person but there are possibilities that it can happen at any other place. The appearance is round at the top, grainy and rough. Normally common warts become grey in colour than the skin surrounding it.
- Plantar warts: They normally grow on the soles of the feet of the person but only grow in the skin but not out of that area. If a person has plantar warts then walking becomes uncomfortable as there are small holes in the bottom of the foot and gets surrounded with the hard skin.
- Flat warts: They normally grow on the arms, face or thighs and are small in size which is not noticeable usually. As the tops are scraped they are usually. They can be of the colour pink, yellow or brown.
- Filiform warts: They grow surrounding the neck, mouth, nose, or under the chin. The size of the filiform warts is small and shaped into a tiny flap or tag or skin. Filiform warts are not noticeable as they are the same colour as the skin.
- Periungual warts: These warts grow around or under the fingers or toenails. Periungual warts are painful and also affect the growth of nails.
Are warts contagious?
Direct contact with HPV lets the condition propagate with ease. Suppose one person touches his wart then another body part then that body part too may develop warts. One must also be careful not to share personal items like razors, towels etc. with a person with warts.
The growth of the skin is slow and it usually months after the infection that the wart takes its a final shape. However, that does not mean each contact with HPV will result in warts. It may or may not occur. Some people are more vulnerable than others in this respect.
How to stop warts from spreading?
Warts are contagious and but they can be prevented from spreading but cannot be stopped fully. These are a few ways in which warts can be prevented from spreading:
Prevent warts from spreading person to person:
- Cleaning or washing hands regularly
- Do not touch the warts of the other people
- Keep warts clean and dry and should be kept disinfected
Prevent warts from spreading to other parts of the body:
- Warts must be kept dry.
- Avoid warts at the time of shaving
- Warts must be kept covered
- Warts should not be scrapped or scratched
- Tools like nail filer or picker should not be used on the affected skin.
Prevent warts from spreading from surface to person:
- Towels and personal items should not be shared
- Shoes must be worn in public places like gyms, pools, locker rooms
- If there has been contact with someone else's warts then the area must be cleaned immediately.
How warts are diagnosed?
Doctors especially dermatologists can tell if a skin growth is a wart just by having a look at it. The usual practice is to take a sample and conduct a skin biopsy. This is usually done in cases where there is a lack of clarity on the growth being a wart.
Other reasons behind skin biopsy include that the growth is darker than it’s surrounding skin or is an irregular skin patch or is accompanied by bleeding or is excessively large or is growing too fast.
How to treat a wart?
Treatment of warts is not always successful. Even after warts are subdued the may recur or even spread to previously unaffected areas. This is due to the fact that the virus is incurable and only the wart is destroyed.
The primary objective of warts treatment is to destroy warts. It also encourages the immune system to fight back the virus so that any future occurrences can be mitigated.
Warts usually do not need specialized medical treatment. But sometimes they may cause pain or spread to other areas. In such situations doctors, usually do the following:
- Duct tape: A few people had success treating warts with duct tape. The procedure includes overlaying the wart with a small piece of duct tape for a few days, then soaking the wart and finally, rubbing the wart to take away the dead skin. This technique can take several rounds of approach to work.
- Salicylic acid: The peeling treatment includes salicylic acid concentrations in prescribed strengths. It is administered in little amounts in the affected area which gradually remove the warts layer by layer. In some instances, salicylic acid cannot be used due to resistance or allergy of the patient. Doctors may try trichloroacetic or bi chloroacetic acid if salicylic acid is unable to offer desired results.
- Freezing therapy: It is yet another form of warts treatment where liquid nitrogen is applied to the affected area. It leads to the formation of a blister around and under the wart. Afterwards, the dead tissue falls away within a couple of days.
- Cryotherapy: It is chosen by many doctors since it trains the immune system to form an antibody for fighting viral warts. It is found that the combination of salicylic acid and freezing therapy can give the most effective results.
- Surgery: Warts may also be removed through surgery. Sometimes a physician may also recommend surgical procedure if other treatments have not worked. Under local anesthesia, most warts can be removed with a surgical razor . Laser treatment uses a specific laser beam to destroy the wart.
Who would need a wart removal treatment?
Any individual who wants to get rid of warts may consider the freezing or salicylic treatment for removal of warts. Even though adults can manage warts, children often get hurt by picking or biting warts which cause excessive pain and irritation.
But before deciding on anything, it is recommended to consult with an expert who can guide you better. Even if salicylic acid treatment or Cryotherapy may not work for a particular patient, then the expert can suggest viable alternatives such as laser therapy.
Who is not eligible for the treatment?
The treatment for warts cannot be easy and effective for some people, especially those who are pregnant, prone to allergies and have an excessive risk of infection. Plus, some people are not able to tolerate the pain associated with these treatments.
People who have developed warts in areas that are very sensitive may not be able to take the wart treatment. This is because the treatment affects the skin surrounding warts and in some cases, the area in close vicinity cannot bear the effects, for instance, the skin near the eyes.
What is the cost of wart removal treatment in India?
The cost of wart removal varies according to the treatment option. It also depends on the number of warts that have to be removed. But it can be said that in India, the treatment for wart removal can be availed at Rs. 500. The patient has to come for several sessions of wart removal for desired results and so the cost keeps on adding up.
What are the post-treatment guidelines?
The post-treatment care depends on the method that has been administered to the patient. Most doctors begin the treatment with the least painful methods, and it is important to follow the instructions given by the expert.
The burning and stinging sensation can be alleviated with the use of ice packs. And to lessen the pain caused by the treatment, the patient would be given painkillers to help ease the discomfort.
Can warts be prevented?
- One should not pick up the warts
- Warts must be covered with bandages.
- Keeping your hand and feet dry
- Hands must be washed regularly and warts must not be touched and hands must be washed after touching them.
- If using a common bathroom then bathroom slippers or flipflops must be worn.
How to get rid of warts?
These are the ways in which we can get rid of warts:
- Freezing: It is also known as cryotherapy in which liquid nitrogen is used by doctors to freeze warts and the temperature can get as low as negative. The treatment can also be painful as the spray needs to be applied for a longer time. When the treatments start affecting the area the dead tissue falls down in one or two weeks.
- Cantharidin: This is the substance which is extracted from the bristle beetle and then this is applied to the skin or area which is affected by warts. After the application of cantharidin, it is not left open but covered with a bandage thus lifting off the skin surrounding wart.
- Salicylic acids: this can be in several forms like gel ointment or pads and are used as over the counter wart treatment and contain salicylic acid. When the salicylic acid is regularly applied on skin it dissolves down the wart tissue in a few weeks.
- Minor surgery: At times warts cannot be removed with the help of other surgeries. Thus surgery is used to cut down the wart. An electric needle or cryosurgery is used to destroy the base of the wart.
- Laser surgery: In this intense beam of light is used in order to destroy the wart tissue.
What are the alternatives to HPV treatment?
Besides the conventional wart treatments, there are other methods of treating warts as well.
- These include an application of cantharidin on warts. Most individuals do not feel any discomfort in this process, but some blistering may start after 3 to 8 hours. If warts do not subside after one treatment, the expert would suggest another session.
- Another way is burning warts, but it is not recommended since it leaves behind significant scars. But it is the only way out for warts that have not responded to other treatments.
- Cryosurgery is the surgical option which helps in the removal of warts without affecting the skin around.