Common warts mainly appear on the hands but can be present in other parts of the body. They start off as a small, raised and colorless bump. Warts grow and gain a rough, cauliflower-like appearance and can range in color from brown, pink or grey. These warts are not harmful unless left untreated. Growth can continue until warts cover a large area of the skin when the condition can become painful and irritating. Common warts near the nail area are especially problematic as they affect nail growth and can cause the nail to fall out.
Common warts are caused by direct contact with the Human Papillomavirus or HPV. There are hundreds of different types of viruses within the HPV family that can cause an outbreak or appearance of a single wart. Usually, it is contracted through a small cut, abrasion or opening on the outer layer of the skin. HPV is everywhere, and it is not necessary to come into direct contact with a wart to become infected.
Warts range in size, texture and color depending upon the type of HPV infection. In general, they appear as a raised bump with a rough, dry outer layer of skin. Warts rarely produce any discomfort but can be itchy, irritable and painful if bumped or broken.
There are 3 common treatments for warts:
- Over the counter ointments, plasters and solutions containing Salicylic acid will eliminate the wart when used following the manufacturer’s instructions. Some buffing or scrubbing of the surface of the wart may be necessary for the treatment to be effective and repeated treatments will be required. This can be quite painful, and it is important to avoid getting the acid on the skin surrounding the wart.
- Cryotherapy uses cold liquid to destroy the wart cells and is a very effective means of wart removal. The procedure must be performed by a medical practitioner, most often with the use of a local anesthetic to prevent pain. The procedure is less painful, more effective and has less impact on the surrounding skin than over the counter remedies. In most cases, one treatment should eliminate the wart within a week to 10 days. Larger and older warts may require additional treatments.
- Excision is a process of removing the wart surgically. Most commonly, a local anesthetic is used to alleviate pain. This is the most effective solution but can result in scarring.
Less common treatments include laser therapy, electrocautery (burning off the wart with electric current), phototherapy and antigens. Antigens activate the own body’s immune system to attack and eliminate warts.
Prevention is always better than cure. Avoid contact with warts as well as clothing, towels or personal items of an infected person. Wash your hands regularly and cover any cuts or abrasions with a plaster after ensuring the area has been dried thoroughly. Protect your own warts from becoming damaged to prevent the condition from spreading and multiplying.