Warts are a type of infection caused by viruses in the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. There are more than 100 types of HPV. Warts can grow on all parts of your body and are noncancerous (benign) rough bumps. They can grow on your skin, on the inside of your mouth, on your genitals, and on your rectal area. Some warts itch and may hurt, especially if they’re on your feet.
Common types of HPV tend to cause warts on the skin (such as the hands and fingers). Other HPV types tend to cause warts on the genitals and rectal area. Some people are more naturally resistant to the HPV viruses and don’t seem to get warts as easily as other people.
Children are more prone to warts because they get a lot of cuts. Still, anyone can get warts. People with autoimmune disease or weakened immune systems, including the elderly, are more susceptible to the virus that causes warts.
Dr. Monique S. Cohn, DO FAOCD will be able to identify a wart just by looking at it. In some cases, she may also scrape the wart to look for tiny dots. These are the tell-tale signs of clotted blood vessels and are common in some warts. She may also remove part of the wart to send to a laboratory for identification.
Some warts can be prevented, others cannot. Warts may be naturally occurring, depending on what’s causing them. But warts also may be passed from person to person by touch. It is also possible to get warts from using towels or other objects that were used by a person who has warts.
Warts on the genitals are very contagious and can be passed to another person during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It is important not to have unprotected sex if you or your partner have warts on the genital area. Warts also can grow on the cervix (inside the vagina) without a person knowing it. They may then pass the infection to their sexual partner.
Some warts won’t go away on their own and need to be treated. Treatment may decrease the chance that the warts will be spread to other areas of your body or to other people. Treatment options include:
- Acid based treatments – Trichloroacetic acid is a stronger acid than salicylic acid, and it can be used if the first option fails. The acid is related to the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar, which is used as an at-home remedy. It helps burn off the wart while attacking the virus that caused it.
- Liquid nitrogen – Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen, either injected into or applied onto the wart, to freeze it off. A blister forms around the wart, which falls off in about a week. Multiple treatments provide the best results, and it can be even more effective when done in conjunction with salicylic acid treatments.
- Topical retinoids (ie RetinA) – Topical therapeutic agents: Applied directly to the wart, the most common of these is a peeling agent called salicylic acid. The acid gradually dissolves the wart, but it takes repeated application over several weeks.
- Surgical excision – Minor surgery is a good option if you want to remove the wart quickly and easily in one appointment. Dr. Cohn numbs the area with a topical anaesthetic, then cuts the wart completely out of the skin. Scarring is minimal, and it usually fades over time.
- Laser treatment – If a still-stronger treatment is needed, Dr. Cohn might use a pulsed-dye laser, which cauterizes the blood vessels, killing the tissue and causing the wart to fall off. Scarring from the treatment is a possible side effect.
Most of the time, treatment of warts on the skin is successful and the warts are gone for good. Genital warts are more likely to come back. Be suspicious of any wart that bleeds or grows quickly. If you have a wart that changes in size, color, or shape, schedule an appointment on-line or call 330-425-7600 at our Twinsburg office for a consultation with Dr. Monique S. Cohn to discuss treatment options.