Warts (Verruca vulgaris) are raised, round, and rough surfaced painless growths on the skin caused by a DNA virus called the Human Papilloma Virus. The strain of HPV depends on the body part affected and the subtype of wart.
How Does It Appear?
Its appearance may vary based on its type and location on the body. In general a wart has brown dots in it (tiny blood vessels which supply it with blood) and a clear boundary with the normal skin. They appear as single or multiple lesions. Warts on the face may be smooth and flat topped (plane warts). Over the beard area in males they appear as small finger like projections (filliform warts) and they tend to spread rapidly on shaving. The warts that occur on other parts of the body (common warts) may be flesh – colored growths with a rough surface and are hard. Sometimes they are seen around the fingernails called as periungual warts. Those on the soles of the feet (plantar warts) tend to grow deep into the skin and are more painful due to weight bearing. Genital warts (condyloma acuminatum) are sexually transmitted. They appear as flesh-colored or gray growths clustered together in a cauliflower-like shape found in the genital area and anal region in both men and women. This type of HPV infection is linked with cancer of the cervix, penis and anus.The virus can persist for months or years, with or without clinical symptoms (carriers).
How Do Warts Spread?
The virus gains entry into the skin after direct contact with recently shed viruses kept alive in warm, moist environments or by direct contact with an infected person. It can spread by sharing towels, razors or other personal items. Plantar warts occur by walking barefoot. The wart spreads from one part of the body to another by autoinoculation. The site of entry may be an area of recent injury. Once the virus enters the skin, a wart may appear on the surface, anytime between 1- 8 months. The virus is more likely to infect skin that is injured or softened by water, but it can infect healthy skin as well. Genital warts spread by sexual contact with an infected partner and are very contagious.
Who Can Get Warts?
Warts are common in children as they are more prone to injuries and can get infected by close contact with other infected children in school. It is also common in persons who are immunocompromised (diabetic patients, elderly, HIV patients). Genital warts are common in individuals with multiple sexual partners.
How Is A Wart Diagnosed?
Skin warts can usually be diagnosed based upon how they look. Skin biopsy or other testing is not usually necessary.
What Is The Treatment For Warts?
The goal of wart therapy is not only to remove the warts, but also to avoid scarring and prevent recurrences. The treatment of viral warts depends on the site, their number and type of lesions. It also depends on the age of the patient and any underlying medical problems. Several treatment methods are available. The commonly used modalities are topical application of wart paint, cytotoxic agents, cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen) and electrocautery (burning with electric current after anaesthetizing the skin). Warts can recur after treatment on the same site or at different sites. Multiple sittings may be required at frequent intervals before it finally remits. Improving the immunity either by topical creams or by systemic medications will prevent the chances of recurrence.