What Are Warts?

Warts on my FingersWarts are a common skin infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV virus causes excessive and rapid growth of keratin, a hard protein on the top layer of skin, resulting in warts. They can appear anywhere on the skin but most commonly on the hands, elbows, knees, and feet.

Their appearance can be flat or raised, grainy, flesh-colored, rough or smooth, and can appear sprinkled with black pinpoints.

Warts are contagious and are spread by touching another wart or a surface infected with the wart virus. Because each person’s immune system responds differently to the virus, not everyone who encounters HPV will get a wart.

While warts are not harmful, they can be painful and significantly impact a person’s self-esteem, confidence, and happiness.

Types

  • Common Warts- small, rough, hard, flesh-colored bumps. Most common on the hands and feet.
  • Plantar Warts- flat, tough, and thick on the soles of the feet.
  • Flat Warts- small and flat. Grow in large numbers. Most common on the face and legs.
  • Filiform Warts- fast growing, spiky or bush-like. Most common on the face.
  • Genital Warts- small, scattered, skin-colored to brown cauliflower-looking bumps in the genital area.

How are warts treated?

Bottom of finger wartsMost warts will clear on their own as the person’s immune system recognizes and clears the virus. This can take weeks, months, or even years. In some cases, a visit to your doctor is helpful in fighting off the virus.

There are multiple treatment options for warts including liquid nitrogen, immune-based therapies, irritant-based therapies, and laser treatments. The goal of all therapy is to get the immune system to recognize the wart virus and clear the infection. It can take multiple treatments for them to completely resolve. Occasionally, warts require two forms of therapy to clear the infection.

Patients who are immunosuppressed can find treating warts extremely challenging.

Prevention

It is important to take good care of your skin, as this is your first-line defense against viruses. Applying a good moisturizer helps the skin to act as a good barrier. Having cracks in the skin, or just dry skin in general, allows for microscopic virus particles to enter the body.

Wear shoes in public pool areas, or in public showers can help protect you from picking up the virus on your feet. If you do develop a wart, it is imperative that you do not pick, scratch, or bite on the lesion. This can cause it to spread to other areas, including the mouth.

Don’t let warts affect your self-esteem and confidence, Dr. Kristina Britton is here to help you. With appointments available in Brainerd, Pine River, Little Falls, and Verndale, you won’t have to travel outside of Central Minnesota for exceptional dermatology care from a board-certified dermatologist.