What are warts?
Warts are viral skin growths that can appear on various parts of the body. They are benign (therefore non-tumorous) formations most common in childhood and adolescence. They are usually painless and their healing time is a few weeks to six months (if properly treated).
There are several types. The most common are:
- Common warts (or moles): usually appear on the fingers, hands, elbows and knees.
- Flat warts: usually appear on the face, arms and knees.
- Plantar warts: develop on the soles of the feet; can be painful as they are continually subjected to bumps and rubbing.
- Mosaic warts usually grow under the toes.
- Filiform warts: often appear on the face and are elongated.
- Condylomas develop in the genital area after sexual transmission.
Warts are viral skin growths that can appear on various parts of the body.
Prognosis of warts
Warts are usually not serious and may disappear in a very short time. However, in some cases, it may be advisable to remove them to prevent them from promoting the development of more serious diseases (such as cutaneous melanoma).
Symptoms of warts
Warts may appear weeks or months after infection. They are usually outgrowths with a rough surface and are quite small; the shape may vary. In some cases, darker spots may be seen on the inside. Although these are not common manifestations, warts can cause pain, itching and bleeding.
Diagnosis of warts
An objective examination by the dermatologist is usually sufficient to diagnose a wart. Occasionally the physician may request a skin biopsy: in this case the wart is removed and sent to the laboratory for analysis.
What are the causes of warts?
The cause of warts is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Moist or wet skin, and the presence of small lesions (cuts, etc.) favor contagion. They can be transmitted in the following ways:
- Contact with the skin of a person already infected with HPV.
- Contact with contaminated surfaces (swimming pool floors, communal showers, gymnasiums, etc.).
- Shared use of personal items such as towels, razors, etc.
- If you have a wart, it is possible to infect yourself by touching other parts of your body after touching the wart.
Can they be prevented?
It is advised:
- Use rubber slippers in changing rooms and showers in gyms and swimming pools;
- Carefully disinfect small skin lesions;
- Maintain good hand hygiene by washing your hands often.
If you already have a wart, to avoid infecting others and self-contagiousness, it is advisable to cover it with a band-aid when you go to places with a higher risk of transmission (such as gyms and swimming pools), not to share personal objects and not to touch it.
Treatments for warts
Often, especially during childhood, warts disappear without any action in a period of time usually between 6 and 24 months; if, on the other hand, they appear in adulthood, it may be necessary to remove them, as autonomous healing may take much longer.
The following treatments do not guarantee the definitive disappearance of the warts, which could reproduce in the same or other parts of the body. If, despite the therapies, new warts appear, this may be due to the spread of viral cells from the old wart to other parts of the body: in this case, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist again to treat the new warts as they appear.
The most commonly used treatments are the following:
- Cryotherapy: liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the wart; it is a procedure that in some cases can be performed at home with products purchased at the pharmacy; – Use of cantharidin: the active ingredient is applied on the wart and causes the death of the wart, the doctor will remove it a few days later;
- Electrocautery: electricity is used to heat the tissue until the wart dies; it is often accompanied by curettage, which consists of removing the wart by cutting it with a scalpel or scraping it with a spoon-like instrument; – Laser: it allows to act precisely only on the tissues that present the wart lesion, without affecting the surrounding tissues;
- Chemical peeling: this is an exfoliation that causes the destruction of the wart; specific drugs that can be applied at home are used.
Which specialist should be consulted?
The dermatologist will be able to recommend what to do and decide on the most appropriate treatment.