At Arizona Dermatology, we see numerous patients for warts, which means we also receive a lot of questions about these common skin growths. What are they? Are they dangerous? What can you do to treat them? Etc.
If you find yourself facing similar questions, you’re in the right place. Here, we’re going to address your common concerns by answering our patients’ most frequently asked questions.
1. What are warts?
Warts are small, fleshy growths. They’re classified as an infection on the top layer of your skin, or epidermis. Warts are very common and can reside anywhere on your body including elbows, knees, fingers, and feet.
2. What causes warts?
Warts are caused by viruses in the human papillomavirus, or HPV, family. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), but isn’t solely spread through sexual contact. Rather, these viruses commonly invade your skin through a cut or scrape. Once the virus enters your body, it can cause cells to rapidly grow on the outer layer of skin, ultimately resulting in a skin growth referred to as a wart.
The HPV virus that causes warts is extremely common. In fact, research shows there are over 100 different viruses in the human papillomavirus family. The HPV virus not present any symptoms. Meaning, someone can have the HPV virus in their system, come in contact with you, and end up giving you a wart through that HPV virus. Other times the virus can present symptoms, such as a wart, but resolve spontaneously.
The unpredictable and sometimes undetectable characteristics of the HPV virus contributes to the difficulty of treating warts.
3. Are warts common?
Yes, warts are very common. It’s likely that most individuals develop at least one common wart in their lifetime, generally on their hands. However, although everyone is at risk for developing a wart, some individuals are more prone to developing these growths through the HPV virus.
Those who are more susceptible to warts include:
- Children—Tend to share germs easier and more often while playing with others.
- Individuals who bite their nails or pick their hangnails—Create small cuts in the skin.
- Individuals who have a weak immune system—More prone to infection.
4. Are warts dangerous?
No, warts are not dangerous. They’re considered to be benign, meaning they’re non-cancerous. However, just because they don’t pose a threat to your health, doesn’t mean you’ll want to leave your wart where it is. Many patients wish to remove their wart because of aesthetic reasons, as the wart may be located in an area visible to the public. Other times, patients wish to remove their wart because the growth is located in a sensitive, irritable area.
5. Are warts contagious?
As mentioned previously, warts are extremely contagious. Warts, or rather HPV viruses, are easily spread through either skin-on-skin contact or through direct contact with an object used by a person with the virus. Meaning, you can come in contact with this virus anywhere—on a door knob, a dirty pencil, your shopping cart, even money.
6. What are the different types of warts?
There are over 100 different versions of the HPV virus, the virus that causes warts. Meaning, there are also hundreds of different types of warts.
Different types of warts are classified by both their appearance and location on your body. Each type of wart also responds to different dermatologic treatments, which is why we recommend seeking professional treatment when handling these skin growths.
At Arizona Dermatology, we diagnose and treat all variations of warts. Some of the most common types of warts we see include:
- Common warts
- Flat warts
- Plantar warts
- Molluscum contagiosum
To determine which type of wart you have, read up on the characteristics and symptoms of these frequently treated warts below. Or, simply schedule an appointment to have your growth evaluated.
Common warts are by far the most common wart, thus the name. Typically, most patients describe these types of warts as looking like a cauliflower. They’re dry, flaky, and white. Although common warts can impact any part of your body, they generally appear on elbows, knees, fingernails, and toes.
Flat warts vary from common warts, in that they don’t have a raised appearance. Instead, flat warts are smooth and flat. Additionally, they’re also classified as being dry, small, and white. You’ll commonly find these growths occurring on the faces of children or on the legs of women, as they’re easily spread through shaving.
Plantar warts are mainly classified through their location on your body. Plantar warts develop on your feet, and because of this, can grow inward instead of outward due to the pressure of walking. This attribute, in combination with the thick skin on the bottom of your feet, makes plantar warts one of the more challenging warts to treat.
Condyloma, or genital warts, are also caused by the HPV virus like every other variation of this skin growth. However, unlike the other types of warts, genital warts are generally transmitted through sexual interactions. When impacted by this type of wart, you’ll notice a soft growth occurring in your inner thighs, pubic region, or buttock. If you think you’re impacted by condyloma, we recommend seeking a second opinion, as they’re commonly mistaken for skin tags.
Molluscum contagiosum is another type of wart we commonly treat at Arizona Dermatology. These types of warts generally occur in clusters and can look like small, hard pimples. They’re typically located on the buttock, elbows, armpits, and faces of children. Additionally, if you’re impacted by molluscum contagiosum, it’s common to experience an itching sensation around your growths. If so, make sure to mention this itching sensation when seeking professional treatment, to receive appropriate treatment.
7. How do you treat warts?
At Arizona Dermatology, to cater to all our patients’ needs, we offer a wide range of treatment options, depending on the severity of your wart(s).
Some of our most common wart treatments include:
- Cantharidin: A liquid formula, derived from the blister beetle, is applied directly to your wart. The formula causes a blister-like reaction underneath the wart, causing it to eventually fall off and detach from your outer layer of skin.
- Podophylin: A solution is applied to your skin by skin care professionals so side effects can be monitored appropriately. The solution works to exfoliate your skin and instigate an immune reaction to remove warts from sensitive areas on the body.
- Cryotherapy: Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze your wart as a method of elimination. After application, the designated area may feel numb for a short period of time.
- Electrosurgery and curettage: Electrosurgery involves gently burning your wart through an electrical current. After, curettage involves scraping off the remaining of your wart with a small instrument. These two medical techniques are commonly used together.
To determine which treatment is right for you, we recommend visiting one of our offices to first determine which type of wart you have. Different warts respond to different dermatological treatments, so it’s important to classify your wart before selecting a treatment option.
Additionally, for more information on our wart treatments, turn to our wart removal service page.
Your next steps
By now, you should have the answers to all your wart questions. However, if for some reason these seven common questions didn’t answer your concerns about warts, we recommend scheduling a consultation appointment. During your appointment, we’ll put any of your additional questions and concerns to rest. We’ll also work with you to find an appropriate treatment so you can live a happy, wart-free life.