Warts are growths of the skin caused by infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
Warts are particularly common in childhood and are spread by direct contact or autoinocculation. This means if a wart is scratched, the viral particles may be spread to another area of skin. It may take as long as twelve months for the wart to first appear.
Warts have a hard 'warty' or 'verrucous' surface. You can often see a tiny black dot in the middle of each scaly spot, due to a thrombosed capillary blood vessel. There are various types of viral wart.
• Common warts arise most often on the backs of fingers or toes, and on the knees.
• Plantar warts (verrucas) include one or more tender inwardly growing 'myrmecia' on the sole of the foot.
• Mosaic warts on the sole of the foot are in clusters over an area sometimes several centimetres in diameter.
• Plane, or flat, warts can be very numerous and may be inoculated by shaving.
• Periungual warts prefer to grow at the sides or under the nails and can distort nail growth.
• Filiform warts are on a long stalk.
• Oral warts can affect the lips and even inside the cheeks. They include squamous cell papillomas.
• Genital warts are often transmitted sexually and predispose to cervical, penile and vulval cancer.
To get rid of them, we have to stimulate the body's own immune system to attack the wart virus. Persistence with the treatment and patience is essential!
Chemical treatment includes wart paints containing salicylic acid or similar compounds, which work by removing the dead surface skin cells. Podophyllin is a cytotoxic agent, and must not be used in pregnancy or in women considering pregnancy.
The wart is frozen with liquid nitrogen repeatedly, at one to three week intervals. This is uncomfortable for a few minutes and may result in blistering for several days. Success is in the order of 70% after 3-4 months of regular freezing. It might cause a permanent white mark or scar.