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What are Warts?

Warts are skin-coloured growths, scaly and feel rough to the touch, but they can be dark, flat, and smooth.  They are non-cancerous skin growths caused by a viral infection in the top layer of the skin. Viruses that cause warts are called human papilloma virus (HPV).

They are most common on the hands, feet and face but they can grow almost anywhere in the body. They are infectious and some people are more susceptible to this infection than others.

How many kinds of Warts are there?

There are several different kinds of warts including:

  • Common warts
  • Foot (Plantar) warts
  • Flat warts
  • Genital warts

Common warts usually grow on the fingers, around the nails, and on the backs of the hands. These are often called “seed” warts because the blood vessels to the wart produce black dots that look like seeds.

Foot warts

Foot warts

Foot warts– are usually on the soles of the feet and are called plantar warts. Most plantar warts do not stick up above the surface like common warts because the pressure of walking flattens them and pushes them back into the skin. Plantar warts can be painful, feeling like a stone in the shoe.

Flat warts– are smaller and smoother than other warts. They tend to grow in large numbers-20 to 100 at any one time. They can occur anywhere, but in children, they are most common on the face. In adults, they are often found in the beard area in men and on the legs in women. Virus seeding from shaving probably accounts for this.

Genital warts are usually sexually transmitted and they can be rough or smooth surfaced and are typically flesh coloured. Genital warts may be large or small and can be found as a single growth or in a group. They can appear on the external genital skin, inside the vagina, or in the anus. Only a small percentage of people infected with HPV will develop genital warts. Many persons are “carriers” of HPV and may never develop warts.  but may still be able to pass HPV to their sexual partners. Although the incubation period from contacting HPV until the development of warts may be several months, some people may not develop warts for years after contact with HPV.

How do you get warts?

Warts are passed from person to person, sometimes indirectly. Patients with plantar warts are likely to have contracted the virus from walking bare-footed in swimming pools, common shower areas.

Why do some people get warts and others don’t?

Some people are just more likely to catch the wart virus than are others, just as some people who catch colds very easily. Patients with a weakened immune system also are more prone to a wart virus infection. Wart viruses also occur more easily if the skin has been damaged in some way e.g. the high frequency of warts in children who bite their finger-nails.

Do Warts need to be treated?

In children, warts can disappear without treatment over a period of several months to years. However, warts that are bothersome, painful, or rapidly multiplying should be treated.

Warts in adults often do not disappear as easily or as quickly as they do in children.

How do Dermatologists treat Warts?

Treatment options include topical medication with salicylic acid liquid and Aldara, an immuno-modulator. Dermatologist/Skin Specialist may also remove warts by burning them with liquid nitrogen, electrosurgery or laser surgery.

  • Topical salicylic acid gel, solution, or plaster — There is usually little discomfort but it can take many weeks or months of treatment to obtain favourable results. Treatment should be stopped temporarily if the wart becomes sore.
  • Topical immunomodulator drug called Aldara (Imiquimod) — This is a form of immunotherapy, which attempts to stimulate the body’s own immune system to eliminate the human papilloma virus.
  • Cryotherapy (freezing) — A commonly used treatment and repeat treatments at two to four-week intervals are often necessary.
  • Electrosurgery or Laser surgery — These methods are used for resistant warts that have not responded to other therapies.
  • Other applications like tretinoin and glycolic acid are often used for treating flat warts when there are too many.

Dr Wong Soon Tee is a MOH accredited Skin Specialist for more than 20 years. To get rid of your warts, seek effective treatments today. Call Assurance Skin Clinic at 6694 1121 for an appointment.

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