What is a wart?

Warts are a viral infection of the skin caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). They can appear anywhere on the skin but are more common in areas of minor breaks or open skin.

On the soles of the feet, warts are called “plantar warts”. Similarly warts on the palms may be termed “palmar warts”. Sometimes they may appear in clusters referred to as mosaic warts or may be minimally elevated flat warts. In women genital warts in the cervical area may lead to cervical cancer.

Since warts are an infection they may occasionally be passed from person to person by direct contact. Warts may also spontaneously resolve without treatment. They are more common and more persistent in people with a weakened immune system such as organ transplant patients.

How to treat warts:

There are many treatment options for warts. Depending on the size and location of the warts multiple treatments may be necessary. Over the counter gels and patches can be used that contain salicylic acid which is a peeling agent. The most common in office treatment is cryotherapy or freezing with liquid nitrogen. Another option is canthardin (“beetle juice”) which is a strong irritant which may cause blisters. There are milder peeling agents for flat warts or sensitive skin areas using retinoid creams (prescription strength vitamin A derivatives).

More difficult warts such as plantar warts may be treated with injections of bleomycin (an anti-cancer drug). Lasers may be used in conjunction with other treatments for certain types of warts. Immunotherapy is a way to sensitize the skin to a compound that creates an allergic reaction to peel and destroy the wart.

Warts may go unrecognized or misdiagnosed as callus, corns or moles. If you’re unsure if you have warts or what treatment may be most appropriate you should consult with your dermatologist.

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