Warts are often benign but contagious and can take years to go away on their own. Genital warts are especially concerning and should be treated by a dermatologist right away to reduce the risk of passing on the virus.
What is a Wart?
Warts are skin growths that occur when a human papillomavirus (HPV) is present. Because there are over 100 types of HPV, there are many different types of warts that vary in appearance and location. Warts can be categorized into the following:
- Common Warts: dome-shaped warts with small black dots on the surface, often appearing on the backs of fingers, toes, and knees.
- Plantar/Foot Warts: warts that appear on the sole of the foot.
- Flat Warts: smaller and smoother than other warts and can appear anywhere on the body but are commonly found on the face and legs. Flat warts often appear in large numbers.
- Filiform Warts: appear as long threads, often on the face around the mouth, eyes, and nose.
- Genital Warts: can appear as flat, white patches, or can be raised cauliflower-like growths found in the groin, genital, and anal areas.
What Causes a Wart?
Warts are caused by one of many types of HPV that infects the top layer of skin, causing rapid skin growth. Low-risk HPV (types 1-3) cause benign warts on parts of the body such as the hands and feet. HPV 16 and 18 can cause cancerous warts on the cervix, genitals, and anus. HPV types 6 and 11 cause benign genital warts.
Warts are contagious and can spread by direct contact with the virus. This can occur from touching a wart you have and then touching another part of your body. You can get the virus from someone else from sharing towels or razors or coming in direct contact. Genital warts are spread through skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. It can also be spread from a mother to her baby during vaginal birth.
How are Warts Treated?
Warts can be diagnosed during an exam performed by a dermatologist. Ricardo Mejia, MD will likely be able to tell it’s a wart just by looking at it, but warts can be removed and sent to a lab for testing for confirmation. Most warts on the body are harmless and will eventually go away on their own. However, if a wart is bothersome to you, if it is in a sensitive area such as under the nail, or if you have genital warts, you should seek treatment from a dermatologist. Treatment options include:
- Prescription medication applied to the wart
- Freezing the wart (cryosurgery)
- Surgical removal through excision, laser, or electrocauterization
Wart treatment can remove the wart, but does not get rid of the virus that causes them. If warts return, you might need further treatment and removal. After wart removal, the virus is less contagious but can still be spread.
Genital warts should not be treated at home or with any over-the-counter medication and should be seen by a dermatologist. If you are seeking treatment for a bothersome wart, contact Jupiter Dermatology.