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Warts are small, skin-coloured, rough lumps on the skin that are benign (non-cancerous). They often appear on the hands and feet. Warts can look different depending on where they are on the body and how thick the skin is. A wart on the sole of the foot is called a verruca.Warts are caused by infection with a virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV causes keratin, a hard protein in the top layer of the skin (the epidermis), to grow too much, producing the rough hard texture of a wart.

Alternative Names of Warts are: Verruca vulgaris

Complications of Warts

  • Lack of confidence

If you feel that your warts look unattractive, it may affect your confidence and self-esteem, particularly if they cover a large area of your body.

  • Complications relating to treatment

Common complications after treatment include:

  • pain, and
  • Irritated skin around the wart.

Rarely, treatment for warts can cause scarring and infection. It can be very difficult to treat warts in people with weak immune systems (for example, people with an illness such as AIDS or people who have had an organ transplant or treatment for cancer). In some cases, it may not be possible to clear the warts, even with treatment.

Malignant change

Warts are usually harmless in people whose immune systems are working properly, and it is rare for any malignant change in a wart to develop. However, in people whose immune systems are weak (see above), there is a higher risk of a wart becoming malignant.

Causes of Warts

You get warts through direct contact with the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are 100 or more types of HPV. Several types of HPV have been implicated in the cause of cancer of the cervix. Many more types tend to cause warts on your skin. Common warts usually occur on your hands, fingers or near your fingernails. Other types of HPV tend to cause warts in other places, such as on the soles of the feet, the genitals, or the face and legs.

Signs & Symptoms of Warts

Common warts are:

  • Small, fleshy, grainy bumps
  • Flesh-colored, white, pink or tan
  • Rough to the touch
  • Common warts usually occur:
  • On your hands
  • On your fingers
  • Near your fingernails

Warts may occur singly or in multiples. They may bleed if picked or cut and often contain one or more tiny black dots, which are sometimes called wart "seeds" but are actually small, clotted blood vessels. Common warts are usually painless. Young adults and children appear to be affected most often.

Other locations for warts

other types of HPV tend to cause warts in other places:

  • Plantar warts. These occur on the plantar surfaces, or soles, of your feet. They usually look like flesh-colored or light brown lumps with tiny black dots in them. These dots are small, clotted blood vessels.
  • Genital warts. These are among the most common types of sexually transmitted diseases. They can appear on your genitals, in your pubic area or in your anal canal. In women, genital warts can also grow inside the vagina.
  • Flat warts. These warts are smaller and smoother than other warts. They generally occur on your face or legs. They're more common in children and teens than in adults.

Diagnosis of Warts

The diagnosis is most often made on the basis of clinical appearance. Diagnostic clues include black dots within the warts and/or pinpoint bleeding after paring down the thickened skin. The wart also tends to disturb the natural skin lines and creates a disrupted surface. A biopsy can be used to confirm clinical suspicion, provide proper diagnosis, and help determine if progression to skin cancer, a rare complication, has occurred.

Treatments of Warts

A variety of creams, gels and medicated plasters for treating warts are available from pharmacies. Most of these contain salicylic acid as their active ingredient. Examples include the brands Compound W and Bazuka. Salicylic acid works by destroying the thickened skin that makes up the wart. The following are some tips for successful treatment.

  • Salicylic acid and other wart treatments also affect healthy skin, so it's important to protect the surrounding area - use petroleum jelly or a corn plaster - and apply the product with care.
  • Soak the wart in warm water for five minutes before applying the salicylic acid.
  • Rub dead skin off once or twice a week with a pumice stone or emery board.
  • Stop treatment and re-start in a few days if the skin becomes sore.
  • Cover the wart with a plaster - this may help get rid of the wart.
  • Persevere - you may need to continue applying

Prevention of Warts
To reduce the risk that you or your child will get or spread warts:

  • Don't brush, clip, comb or shave areas that have warts, in order to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Don't use the same file or nail clipper on your warts as you use on your healthy nails.
  • Don't bite your fingernails if you have warts near your fingernails.
  • Don't pick at warts. Picking may spread the virus. Consider covering your child's warts with an adhesive bandage to discourage picking.
  • Keep your hands as dry as possible, because warts are more difficult to control in a moist environment.
  • Wash your hands carefully after touching your warts.

When to seek Medical Advice

Most common warts don't require medical treatment, but some people choose to have their warts treated because they are bothersome, spreading or a cosmetic concern. Most warts disappear on their own or with home care. Prompt treatment by a doctor or dermatologist, however, may decrease the chance that the warts will spread to other areas of your body or to other people. See your doctor if your warts or your child's warts persist, despite home treatment. Also see your doctor if your warts are bothersome, painful or rapidly multiplying.

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