Warts have generally straightforward signs but appearance varies greatly from case to case because of differences in location and the skin thickness in the area that they grow from. They could also appear with black dots which are clotted blood vessels that could lead to bleeding upon removal. Warts are often skin-colored and feel rough, but they can be dark (brown or gray-black), flat, and smooth. Learn more about the types of warts, signs, causes, and treatments here.
Types of Warts
Common warts are medically known as verucca vulgaris. These may appear anywhere on the body but are commonly found on elbows, fingers, knees, and knuckles, or anywhere with broken skin. They appear as a cauliflower-like raised surface that is firm and rough.
Plane warts are medically known as verucca plana and are characterized by their smooth and round appearance. These are often found in large numbers on the extremities or sun-exposed areas as skin-colored raised areas. These are the types that also most likely disappear without treatment.
Plantar warts are found on the contact points of your feet like heels, toes, and soles. Because they are contact points, they grow into the skin as pushed by the pressure of your weight. It tends to be difficult to clear because of the hard white tissue surrounding the small black dot in the middle. Multiple plantar warts in clusters are called mosaic warts.
Filiform warts are ones that are long and thin, appearing often in the armpits, eyelids, and necks.
Genital warts are sexually transmitted and appear as small bumps in the genital area that are flesh-colored. They can be flat or lumpy like cauliflower. Some are so small they’re difficult to notice.
What Causes Warts?
Warts are caused by viruses from the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. The infection prompts the body to release and overproduce a kind of hard protein found on the top layer of your skin called keratin.
Since there’s a myriad of viruses under this family, there are different strains that cause different kinds of warts. It can be passed onto other parts of your body or other people through close skin-to-skin contact like sexual intercourse.
Prevention of Warts
To prevent the spread of warts to other parts of your body, make sure to avoid scratching or biting a wart. Habits like biting fingernails or sucking fingers when there are warts in the area should also be avoided. If the wart is anywhere you often shave like the face or the legs, it might be best to put the razor down for the time being.
To avoid having warts make sure to take care of wet or damaged skin especially those that come into contact with rough surfaces. For example, make sure to wear shower shoes in public showers to reduce the risk of infection.
When to Seek Help
There are several things to watch out and you should seek help with a wart if you encounter the following.
- If it bleeds easily or causes pain
- It is located somewhere that is prone to constant bumping and bleeding
- Sudden changes in appearance or coming back after removal are signs of alarm as well
- If it’s likely to spread or you just want it removed for cosmetic reasons, you could also go to your doctor to have it removed.
Treatment for Different Types of Warts
Although most warts don’t require treatment since they may spontaneously resolve within 1 to 5 years, other reasons might prompt you to seek treatment.
The most accessible option for treatment is salicylic acid. This is readily available as an over-the-counter topical formulation like creams, gels, and even medicated band-aids. However, at high concentrations, it’s possible for the healthy skin surrounding the wart to be destroyed. To avoid this, lather on petroleum jelly on surrounding skin to prevent it from damage. Doing this daily for 2 to 4 months helps to get rid of warts.
Another common treatment is cryotherapy where liquid nitrogen or some other freezing substance is sprayed onto the wart to destroy the cells and eliminate the virus that causes it. After freezing, the area blisters and turns into a scab before naturally falling off. It’s important to note that this procedure is better done by healthcare professionals since it could require several sessions and local anesthetic depending on your case.
Precision methods like laser treatments and electrocautery use a precise laser beam and electricity, respectively, to kill the virus, afflicted cells, and to get rid of the wart.
Chemical treatments like cantharidin and candida antigen shots are also available. Cantharidin is extracted from the blister beetle, which is an insect that gives off this substance that creates a blister when injected under the wart and lifts it for the doctor to remove.
Candida antigen can be locally injected and it activates the immune system to get rid of the wart. This is similar to immunotherapy, and both of these methods may not be advisable for pregnant people.
A last-resort solution is surgery. Surgical removal of warts is uncommon because it might cause scarring. The method is similar to shaving, but the material used is a surgical razor and it is conducted under anesthesia. A topical cream may be used as a supplement to prevent scarring.
Other possible treatments are antibiotics, in case of infection, retinoids to disrupt the skin growth, bleomycin or benoxane to kill cells, as well as targeted treatments like photodynamic therapy.
Warts are, more often than not, no cause for real alarm. To help to determine the types of warts you may have, consult your doctor or dermatologist. They can also help in sharing treatment plans to help address your concerns.
Learn more about Skin Health here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.