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A wart is a common, non-cancerous growth caused due to infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts are contagious and can spread to other parts of the body and to other individuals in close proximity, if left untreated. They can cause physical pain as well as mental distress due to potential disfigurement.

Image of person with wart on hand

1. There are many types of warts

Viral warts can be classified in many ways depending on site and presentation. Since there are over 150 types of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), only some of which infect the skin, warts present on the body in different ways. All skin warts typically have thickened skin in very specific areas.

The most frequently observed type of warts or 'common warts' appear on the front or back of the hands, especially on the fingers. They can also appear on the elbows, legs, or knees. They can be smooth or rough in appearance, generally appear as raised bumps, and are primarily skin-colored, although they can sometimes appear dark-colored.

Other types of warts include:

  • Flat warts: These are relatively smaller and smooth, but can appear in large numbers, sometimes in the hundreds. They are particularly common among women.

  • Plantar warts: These grow in clusters on the soles of the feet. They have especially thick skin and can cause pain when walking or running.

2. Warts generally spread by contact

Warts are contagious. They spread upon contact with the wart, or an object or a person that has touched the wart. Individuals with open wounds and cuts are the most vulnerable to a wart since there is no barrier for the virus to enter and infect the underlying skin tissue.

Physically active individuals, those in close contact with others, children and teenagers, and those with compromised immune systems, are also vulnerable to warts.

Image of an adult holding a child's hand with wart
Warts are particularly common in children...

Image of an adult hand with a wart
...but adults can get them too

Due to their infectious nature, if left untreated, everyday routines can spread one or more warts to other parts of the body. Warts can become more painful and disfiguring as they proliferate in number.

3. Warts can be treated quickly

As soon as a wart is suspected, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist. They can diagnose the wart, rule out other, more serious skin disorders, and decide the appropriate treatment plan for you.

The most common and effective treatment for warts is cryotherapy, which involves freezing off the wart with liquid nitrogen. The procedure is quick and relatively painless. The temperature of liquid nitrogen is 320 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. At this temperature, the wart and the underlying infected skin quickly get frozen. In a few days. the wart and surrounding areas develop a blister and the blister simply falls off. The body naturally replenishes it with new skin. Sometimes, stubborn or severely infected warts require multiple sessions for treatment.

Image of person's hand being treated with Cryotherapy
Wart being treated with cryotherapy

Other treatments for warts include using excision which cuts the wart out from the skin, or using cantharidin, a compound which removes the wart chemically.

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