What are Warts?
Warts are non-cancerous skin growths caused by a viral infection in the top layers of the skin. Viruses that cause warts are called human papilloma virus (HPV). Warts are usually skin colored and feel rough to the touch, but they can be dark, flat, and smooth. The physical appearance of a wart depends on where it is growing.
There are several different kinds of warts including:
- Common Warts
- Foot (Plantar) Warts
- Flat Warts
Common warts usually grow on the fingers, around the nails, and on the backs of the hands. They are more common where the skin has been broken, for example where fingernails are bitten or hangnails picked. These are often called “seed warts” because the blood vessels to the wart produce black dots that look like seeds.
Foot warts are usually on the soles of the feet and are called plantar warts. When plantar warts grow in clusters they are known as mosaic 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. Like common warts, these warts may have black dots. Plantar warts have a bad reputation because they 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. Irritation from shaving probably accounts for this.
Dermatologists are trained to use a variety of treatments, depending on the age of the patient and the type of wart. Treatments include the application of salicylic acid or painting the area with cantharidin, cryotherapy (freezing) and electrosurgery (burning).
Flat warts are often too numerous to treat with methods mentioned above. As a result, peeling methods using daily applications of salicylic acid, tretinion, glycolic acid, or other surface peeling preparations are often recommended.
Foot warts are difficult to treat because the bulk of the wart lies below the skin. Treatments include the use of salicylic acid plasters, applying other chemicals to the wart, or the surgical treatments including surgery, electrosurgery, or cutting.