Warts are benign tumors caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). Warts which occur on the feet and hands are called "common warts" and are caused by viruses that only affect human beings. These warts are mostly frequently found in teenagers and children and are spread by close physical contact. Once a person reaches adulthood, the likelihood of developing warts drops considerably.
What is a Wart?
Warts are caused by a group of viruses which specifically cause the onset of this affliction. When a wart virus comes into contact with skin that is susceptible, the virus may infect the epidermal cells and form a bump, nodule or growth that is known as a wart.
One myth is that warts grow from seeds. The "seeds" in a wart (little black dots) are not really seeds, but dried blood in small blood vessels found near the surface of the wart.
Types of Warts
While all warts are basically the same, they may look and act differently depending on what part of the skin they have formed on. These include:
- Common warts - This type can be found as a single wart or in multiples and has a rough, dry and elevated surface (possibly with "seeds"). They can occur just about anywhere on the skin, even around or under the fingernails.
- Flat warts - These warts are usually found in multiples and are flat lesions. While they can occur anywhere, they are typically found on the arms, face, legs and the backs of hands. Flat warts are particularly common on the lower legs of young women who shave their legs or in the beard area of men. Shaving over the warts may cause them to become elevated rather than flat. This type of warts is often found in streaks or lines.
- Plantar warts - Plantar means "the sole of the foot," and that is where this wart is found. (Some people mistakenly call this wart "planter's" warts.) This type of wart is frequently painful because of pressure being put on the foot (and thus the wart).
- Genital warts - These warts occur on the sexual organs of men and women, or around the anus. They may look like ordinary warts or they may be large, fleshy and cauliflower-like.
- Lips and mouth warts - These appear as moist, small whitish bumps. This type of wart is not common and mainly occurs in children.
While warts are clearly contagious (the virus for warts had to come from somewhere and infect the skin), whether or not a person develops warts is more related to how susceptible one individual is than how often the virus comes in contact with the skin.
If a person knows they are susceptible to contracting warts they can try to avoid close contact with the warts on someone else.
Genital warts are extremely contagious. Anyone who has warts in or around the sexual organs or the anus should have them removed before they can be spread during sexual contact.
For warts, diagnosis is quite easy. Nearly everyone knows what ordinary warts look like. However, plantar warts are not always easy to tell from calluses or corns on the soles of the feet. Two features need to be present for a proper diagnosis of plantar warts.
First, normal fingerprint lines do not cross the surface of a wart - they stop at one side of the wart and pick up on the other side. Second, wart tissue is somewhat granular, not clear or smooth. The surface of the wart may have to be carefully shaved to see the granularity.
Treatments for Warts
Many warts will go away on their own with no treatment. However, this may take months or even years. Extreme measures which will cause injury or scarring is almost never warranted to remove warts.
However, genital warts or warts on the lips can and should be treated by a competent, experienced physician. Warts in other areas can be treated by home remedies or medications if desired.
Typical wart removal medications should be used with caution as they can burn a hole in the skin. If one treatment does not show improvement after three weeks, try something else.
One simple remedy is to place tape (any medical or first aid tape) over the wart. Apply the tape snugly and leave it on 24 hours per day, seven days a week for at least three weeks. The same method can be used but with the addition of half a drop of castor oil (twice daily) to the wart, then apply the tape or bandage.
As always, eat a variety of whole, nutritious foods in order to maintain optimal health. Avoid simple sugars, as they reduce the immune system's ability to fight off infections and viruses.
Some natural remedies include:
- Thuja - Apply one drop of thuja oil to the wart twice daily for four weeks
- Garlic - Apply one drop of garlic oil to the wart twice daily for 4 weeks
- Supplements to take orally to boost the immune system include Echinacea, selenium and vitamin E.
Some tips for living with warts follow:
- Don't scratch or pick at warts, as this may cause them to spread. Scratching warts may also cause warts to appear under the fingernails.
- Don't use a blade-type razor to shave in areas where warts are present.
- Don't chew or bite warts. This may cause them to appear on the lips.
- Relax. Be patient and persistent in treating the warts and they will eventually go away.
- Balch, J.F. & Stengler, M. (2004). Prescription for Natural Cures: a self-care guide for treating diseases and health problems with natural remedies including diet and nutrition, herbal medicine, nutritional supplements, bodywork, and more. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons Ltd
- De Vries, J. (1992). Skin diseases. Edinburgh : Mainstream
- Goodman, T. (1984).The skin doctor's skin doctoring book.New York : Sterling
- Papadopoulos, L. (2003). Understanding skin problems : acne, eczema, psoriasis and related conditions. Chichester, West Sussex : John Wiley and Sons Ltd
- Turkington, C., (1998). Skin deep : an A-Z of skin disorders, treatments and health. New York : Facts On File
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