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How to Detect a Wart and What to Do About Them

What Is a Wart?

If you haven’t experienced a wart in your life, chances are you know someone who has, and you may still get one yourself one day. Most take a while to go away on their own, but common over-the-counter and home remedy options are available to speed up the wart removal process. For expert attention to your skin problem, or for severe conditions, a dermatologist can help you figure out the best options for treatment.

What Causes Warts?

Warts are a common skin infection. They show up as solid bumps on the skin that don’t hurt or itch, which might be slightly discolored. A wart is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus gains entry to the skin through tiny breaks in the skin and lives in the outermost layer of the skin. Growth of the virus produces a bump with the characteristic rough, granular appearance. They are usually slightly lighter or darker than the color of the skin and sometimes have black dots in them. The dots are small, clotted blood vessels at the base of the wart. Common warts most often appear on the hands and feet, but the virus can occur on any part of the body. Your dermatologist or general practitioner can identify a wart for you if you’re still not sure about your skin irritation after a self-examination.

The virus is found on many common surfaces, such as shower floors. It is also shed from the surface of warts, explaining the contagious nature of warts and their ability to spread. Like most viruses, different people have different susceptibility to warts. Some people are, in fact, relatively immune and do not get warts. Other people get them frequently and severely.

Approaches to wart removal vary from gentle to slightly painful. Some of the medical wart treatments include:

  • OTC Treatments—it is important to seek the advice of a dermatologist before using OTC wart treatments if you are unsure of the diagnosis. When deciding to try the self-care approach with warts, there are several products available on the market. The most effective products have the ingredient salicylic acid, which works by drying up the wart and sloughing off the skin. It is important to treat only the wart since these products can irritate the surrounding skin.

  • Freezing (cryotherapy)—this method can destroy a wart by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. As the skin thaws, the dead skin (the wart) falls off. This method is effective but can sometimes require multiple treatments and is best performed by a dermatologist.

  • Electrodesiccation and curettage—this treatment involves cutting away the wart or destroying the wart by using an electric needle.

  • Laser surgery—the laser emits a narrow beam of light that helps to vaporizes HPV growths. A certain type of laser light helps vaporize the blood vessel that supplies the wart.

  • HPV vaccines— Two HPV vaccines are licensed by the FDA and recommended by CDC. These vaccines are Cervarix (made by GlaxoSmithKline) and Gardasil (made by Merck).

  • Injections—medication injections, such as the anti-cancer drug bleomycin, can be injected into the wart to kill the virus.

How to Deal with Warts

Since a virus spreads warts, regular skincare won’t necessarily make it less likely for warts to appear when you’re exposed. Only immunity will help prevent their development. Don’t worry, however, since these are common problems that have multiple treatments available. You should see your dermatologist if warts are spreading, appear on the genitals, or if you have been unsuccessful at treating them. Contact us to schedule an appointment today to have one of our experts care for you.

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