A virus called human papillomavirus, or HPV for short, can infect the top layer of the skin and lead to an unfortunate growth known as a wart. HPV usually infiltrates a broken area of skin causing the top layer to grow rapidly and form a wart. They can pop up anywhere on the body and have earned different names. For instance, warts that grow on the soles of the feet are known as plantar warts. Warts that grow on hands are called common warts. Sometimes warts are sexually transmitted and appear in the genital area but generally, warts affect the fingers, hands and feet.
Left alone, most warts will go away on their own. But it can take months or even years. And who wants to wait that long? These gray-brown, dome-shaped growths have a rough surface similar to that of a cauliflower. They’re not very attractive. and most people feel self-conscious about them. Read on for more facts and a little fiction about warts as well as some ways to prevent them and/or hasten their demise.
• Warts can be pink, white or brown and can contain tiny spots inside that look like black specks. The latter are actually tiny blood vessels that grow into the core of the wart to supply it with blood.
• Warts are easily spread by direct contact with a HPV. Some people are more susceptible while still others never get them at all. Doctors theorize that’s because some people’s immune systems make them less likely to get the viruses that cause warts.
• Age can determine the incidence of warts. They occur more frequently in children and young adults. As one ages, warts are less likely to develop and any you have may simply disappear.
• Warts are usually painless, although plantar warts can give the sensation of walking on a small pebble.
• Warts can itch or bleed. It’s best to avoid scratching or picking them in order not to infect them with bacteria and/or spread the virus to another part of the body.
A Little Fiction:
Warts appear overnight. Actually, the length of time that transpires between exposure to a HPV virus and the appearance of a wart varies, but warts generally grow very slowly and may take many months to develop.
Touching a toad or frog will give you warts. The bumpy skin so characteristic of these amphibians is simply their camouflage. Warts only come from human viruses.
An Ounce of Prevention:
• Avoid walking barefoot on warm, moist surfaces – think public showers, locker rooms or pool areas – where HPV viruses can thrive.
• Don’t share razors, towels, socks or shoes, or similar personal items with another person. A person may not have any visible warts, but they can still be carrying the virus. Remember, it takes time for a wart to manifest itself.
Recommended Treatment Methods:
• Applying over-the-counter medications containing salicylic acid
• Covering the wart with duct tape and replacing it periodically to cleanse the affected area
• Freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen. This procedure is known as cryosurgery and is performed in a doctor’s office.
• Removing the wart with surgery (electrosurgery, curettage or laser surgery) – always performed under a physician’s care.
The majority of warts are harmless but when in doubt – and especially in the case of genital warts (which can lead to cervical cancer) – always consult a physician.