What Is It?
Warts are non-cancerous skin growths caused by a viral infection in the top layer of the skin. They can appear anywhere on the skin but they are most common on the hands and feet. Wart colors can range from skin-colored, pink, brown and white. They appear as tiny, hard bumps with a rough surface that may have a cauliflower texture. Some can also be dark, flat and smooth.
There are many different kinds of warts including:
Common warts - usually grow around the nails, on the fingers and back of hands
Foot warts - usually appear on soles of the feet and can be called plantar warts
Flat warts - smaller and smoother than other warts that grow in great numbers
Genital warts (condyloma) - occur on the genitalia and anus
What Causes It?
Warts are tiny skin infections caused by viruses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. The viruses that cause warts are passed from person to person, sometimes indirectly. The risk of catching hand, foot and flat warts is small. Genital warts are more contagious and sexually transmitted. Some people get warts depending on how often they are exposed to the virus.
What Can Be Done?
Several treatment options for warts exist. Common warts in young children can be treated at home with over-the-counter medicines that contain salicylic acid. This treatment is relatively painless but may take many weeks to obtain good results.
For faster results, topical treatments for young children are often used in combination with other in-office treatments. For adults and older children, the most effective treatment is cryotherapy (freezing of the wart with liquid nitrogen). Electrosurgery (burning and scraping off the wart) and CO2 laser treatments are other procedures used to destroy warts. Also vascular pulse dye lasers are commonly used. A new topical, immunomodular medicine, Aldara®, has been approved for treatment of genital warts.