Warts are skin growths caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). There are about 130 known types of HPV, some of which cause the skin to produce warts. HPV stimulates accelerated growth of cells to the skin’s outer layer, resulting in the wart. Warts are caused through direct contact with someone who has HPV, which is contagious. They can also be spread by an object used by the person with the virus.
- Common: A common wart is a raised wart with a rough surface that can occur anywhere on the body, but is most often found on the hands.
- Flat: Flat warts are smoother, flatter, and smaller than common warts, and generally occur on the face. This type of wart is more common in children than adults.
- Plantar: Plantar warts usually appear as flesh-colored or light brown lumps that are flecked with small blood vessels, which appear as black dots. Plantar warts occur on the bottom of the feet.
- Genital: Genital warts can appear in the pubic region, on the genitals, in or around the anus, and in the vagina. They look like small pink or red growths. Genital warts usually grow in clusters of two or three, and can spread and grow rapidly. Mild pain, itching and bleeding can occur. HPV can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, and is the most common sexually transmitted disease in North America. Some forms cause the genital warts, while other forms of HPV are responsible for causing cervical cancer and head and neck cancer.
Warts are generally harmless, but genital warts should be taken seriously. There are many treatment options for warts, although often warts reappear after treatment, and sometimes multiple types of treatment are necessary. Some options include:
- Freezing: In this treatment, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the wart. A blister forms around the wart, and the dead tissue falls off within about a week.
- Medications: Some medications can be applied to the wart to help it forma blister and fall off, such as Cantharidin. Other drugs, such as Bleomycin, are injected into a wart to kill the virus. Aldara is a prescription cream used to treat genital warts.
- Minor Surgery: When other treatments fail, minor surgery may be considered. The wart will be cut away, and then the base of the wart will be destroyed using an electric needle or by deep freezing (cryosurgery).
- Laser Surgery: This procedure uses an intense beam of light (the laser) to burn and destroy wart tissue.