Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD.
All warts, no matter where
they grow on the body or what they look like, are caused by the same family of
viruses called the human papillomavirus (HPV) group. Although in the same
family, different types of these viruses tend to infect different areas of the
body. Warts are classified by their characteristic appearance as well as where
they appear on the body.
Common warts: warts that frequently occur on the hands, arms, and legs. The
warts often look like little rough
• Periungual warts:
warts around the fingernails.
warts: warts are flat, slightly elevated, and flesh colored, and occur on the
face, knees, and elbows of children and young
• Genital warts: warts on the
genital and rectal area, often transmitted
• Plantar warts: warts on
the bottom of the feet, often transmitted by bare
• Filiform warts: warts that
are small with hairlike projections. Warts may look different and occur in
different places on the body, but they are all caused by the HPV
Warts are extremely common,
especially in individuals 10–20 years of age. The majority of these warts
(up to 65%) will disappear on their own without treatment within 2 years.
Unfortunately warts often come back even when treated. Because warts are an
infection, you can catch warts from another individual and you can give warts to
someone. You can also infect other parts of your body by scratching and picking
warts. Skin that is moist from prolonged soaking, or skin that has been open by
cuts or scratches is more likely to become infected by virus and form warts.
Treatment of warts is usually but not always successful. The treatment itself
can often cause problems such as pain, infection, and scarring. With the high
number of warts that go away on their own (65% in 2 years), not all warts need
treatment. However, depending on where the wart is, how big it is, how many
there are, and your degree of concern about it (physical and emotional), as well
as to prevent spread of the wart, treatment may be needed. Your doctor should be
consulted if you have any
Living With Your
Most warts are little more
than unsightly tumors on the skin. At times they are in places where they can
catch and bleed, such as on the face and head. The long-term effects of most
warts are usually not serious or dangerous, but warts are not pretty and can
spread. If you decide to get rid of your warts, you must treat carefully. The
treatment often takes several weeks, and in some cases can cause pain,
blistering, and infection. Self- treatment for some warts can be done by
yourself using over-thecounter medications. Other warts, especially genital
warts that may lead to cancer, need to be treated by your
depends to some extent on where the warts are located. Warts of the common
variety on the arms, hands, and legs can initially be treated by salicylic acid
and lactic acid in solution (Duofilm, Dalactic Film, Viranol Solution, Wart
Solution). You should apply the solution each night directly on the wart. Peel
off any dead skin from the previous night’s treatment. If redness or pain
occurs, the treatment needs to be stopped for a few days. Usual treatment is
from 2 to 3 weeks. If satisfactory results are not obtained, stronger medication
may be needed from your doctor. Plantar warts can be treated with application of
40% salicylic acid plasters. Cut the plaster to the size of the wart and place
on the wart; remove weekly, cleaning all dead skin. The wart should begin to go
away in 2–3 weeks; if not, you may need to see your doctor to obtain
stronger medication. Flat warts are often treated with skin peeling using acne
medications. This will require seeing your doctor. Genital warts almost always
require the evaluation of your doctor to ensure the warts have not spread.
Treatment is usually with a blistering agent that will require your
doctor’s application and follow-up. Your sexual partner will need to be
examined also. Other treatments include freezing the warts, injecting them with
drugs that stimulate the immune system, surgically cutting the warts, and
burning the warts with a laser or electricity. Your doctor will know which
method is best for your particular
• Do treat warts early to
improve response to treatment.
wash hands after touching your warts if you must touch them at
• Do use salicylic acid solution
on common warts as directed.
• Do use
salicylic acid plasters on plantar
• Don’t bite
fingernails, pick cuticles, or soak hands for long
• Don’t pick at, dig
at, or pull warts.
• Don’t cut
or scrape warts.
• Don’t let
your skin come in contact with
• Don’t shave or cut
hair over warts.
When to Call Your
• If you have warts that
cannot be treated by overthe-counter preparations of salicylic
• If after several weeks of
treatment your warts are no better.