What Exactly Are Warts?
Warts are growths or “tumors” on your skin that are a result of the human pampillomavirus (HPV), which has over 100 known strains. You will often notice that warts will grow on elbows, knees, hands and typically present as a thickening of the top layer of skin resulting in a hard circular node or bump.
Why Do Warts Happen?
It is possible for almost anyone to contract a mild strain of HPV and have no idea where there might have been exposure (Warts may not occur until up to 12 months after the virus has taken hold). The most common ages for you to develop warts are between 12 and 16, and while HPV can be transmitted through intimate contact, it is rarely spread through the touching of an object that someone else with warts has handled.
Often, the virus will enter your body through a break in the skin, and you may transmit it to other parts of your body by touching a wart and then touching another area that has been injured or cut.
In most cases, your warts will go away on their own in anywhere from a few months up to several years, with half being gone by the six month mark and 90 percent by the time 24 months have passed.
Those who have suppressed immune systems, such as those who have HIV, or have just undergone surgery are more prone to an HPV infection and therefore the emergence of warts.
Are Warts Contagious?
Yes. Since warts are caused by a virus, they can be “caught” by way of the virus. Avoid sharing personal products with someone who has warts and if you have warts yourself, don’t pick at them.
Different Wart Types
Your warts may fit into one of a number of categories depending on their appearance. Typically, they will have small black dots in their center as a result of thrombosed (clotted) blood vessels.
Various wart types include:
– Common Warts: If you have common warts, they will present as rough, thick skin with pink or white bumps on the hands, face and elbows.
– Filiform Warts: Filiform warts may occur on your body around the facial area and are long and narrow like small bits of thread.
– Flat Warts: These types of wart will appear on your face, hands or shins and are slightly raised and smooth. They will often occur in a line and can be caused by regular scratching or shaving.
– Plantar Warts: If you have plantar warts, you may notice rough and callus-like areas on the soles of your feet. Unlike most warts, these can be painful.
When to Have Warts Treated
Generally, warts will require no treatment and will disappear on their own, and not all treatments will guarantee they will disappear, as they cannot address the underlying virus.
At-home treatments you can use include over-the-counter wart removers that have salicylic acid in them in order to dissolve the wart-affected skin layer. Duct tape over the wart may also work, although its mechanism of action is unknown.
More serious wart eruptions may require the destruction of your warts with cryosurgery (freezing) or the use of a chemo agent like imiquimod, which causes destruction of the wart.