If you have a small, grainy growth on your skin, you might have a wart. In the simplest terms, warts are areas of skin that grow faster than the skin around it. Warts can be unsightly and make you feel self conscious about the skin you’re in. But don’t let warts worry you. Get the scoop on the different types of warts, where they come from, and how treatment from a board certified dermatologist like Dr. Doppelt can help.
What is a Wart?
A wart is a small, skin colored growth on the skin. Warts are benign, which means they are noncancerous. They can be grainy or smooth in appearance. Warts can grow anywhere on the body, but are most common on the hands, feet or face. Warts are extremely common in children and teens. In fact, as many as 1 in 3 kids and teens are estimated to have warts, while only 3 to 5 percent of adults have warts. Adults with weakened immune systems are most susceptible to warts. Kids are likely more prone to warts because their immune systems are still learning to fight the virus that causes warts.
The scientific name for warts is verruca. Warts can come in many forms and be smooth or bumpy in texture. A wart can look like raised cauliflower on the skin or it can be smooth and shiny in appearance.
Where Do Warts Come From?
Warts are caused by a virus called the Human Papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV. There are many different strains of viruses in this family, many of which cause warts. The viruses can be contagious. This means warts can spread from person to person. Warts are most commonly spread by skin-to-skin transmission. Additionally, sharing towels, razors or other personal items with someone with warts can lead to an infection. If you already have a wart, you can infect yourself again by touching it.
Warts come from an infection of HPV in the top layer of skin. The virus can enter the skin through a break in the skin, like a cut, scratch or other injury. HPV is an extremely common virus. Contact does not guarantee a wart. It can take many months after contact for a wart to form. Some people are more likely to get warts than others.
What Are the Different Types of Warts?
There are many kinds of warts. Some can be painful, others aren’t. Different types of warts include:
- Common warts: Do you have a wart with a raised, bumpy cauliflower-like appearance? Chances are it’s a common wart (verruca vulgaris). You can get a common wart anywhere on the body. Common warts are likely to appear on the fingers, knuckles, elbows and knees. You also might find them anywhere with broken skin. Does your common wart have a black spot that looks like a seed? This is a blood vessel. This means your wart can bleed.
- Plane warts: Is your wart flat and smooth? It might be a plane wart (verruca plana). These warts can be brownish or skin-colored in appearance. They usually grow in areas exposed to the sun. They can be particularly troubling in areas that are shaved as the process of shaving can cause them to spread. Plane warts usually don’t come alone: They might appear in groups or 20 to 100.
- Plantar warts: Got a wart on the bottom (plantar aspect) of your foot? It’s a plantar wart. The bottom of the foot has the thickest skin on the body. Because of this, plantar warts present a particular challenge as they usually grow deep into the skin. Plantar warts are commonly called seed warts because of the small black dots that can be seen within the wart. These are not seeds, but actually blood vessels. The hard, bumpy texture of a plantar wart can sometimes be quite painful.
- Mosaic warts: When warts form a collection, they are termed “mosaic”.
- Filiform warts: Warts that have long, skinny finger-like projections that protrude from the skin are termed “filiform”. These warts are most commonly seen on the face and favor the area around the mouth and the eyelids. You can also find them in the underarm area or on the neck.
- Genital warts: As the name suggests, genital warts grow in, on, or around the genitalia. Any visible abnormal growths in the genital region should be evaluated by a qualified physician. In addition, a Pap smear tests for HPV changes in areas that can’t be easily visualized.
Your dermatologist can tell what kind of wart you have by looking at it in most cases. Your doctor might also take a sample of the wart to examine under a microscope. This is called a skin biopsy. Even though there are many different types or warts, you’ll find that treatment for warts can be similar.
How Are Warts Treated?
Even though you’ll find many at-home wart removal methods on the internet or on store shelves, it might be best to see a board-certified dermatologist like Dr. Doppelt to treat your wart. A doctor can diagnose a wart and in-office removal is often faster, more effective, and simpler than at-home methods.
There are a number of different ways your dermatologist can treat a wart. The method chosen might depend on the size of the wart, the location of the wart on the body and the type of wart. ommon wart treatments are aimed at destroying the tissue where the wart virus lives. The most common destructive methods include:
- Swift Microwave Therapy: With treatment time in seconds and a cure rate of over 85%, Swift offers patients significantly faster, easier and more effective results for wart removal than previous methods like surgery, cryotherapy or chemicals.
- Cryotherapy: According to information from the American Academy of Dermatologists, cryotherapy is most doctors’ go-to procedure for removing common warts. With local anesthesia, this procedure can be made nearly-painless procedure involves freezing the wart off with liquid nitrogen.
- Cantharidin (aka Beetle Juice): Another common wart removal procedure, cantharidin is a solution that is “painted” over the wart. The cantharidin solution makes a blister form under the wart. When the blister peels off after a week or two, the wart will often go with it.
- Electrosurgery and curettage: Your dermatologist might opt for electrosurgery if you have a common wart, plantar wart or filiform wart. This involves burning the wart off. It’s less painful than it sounds and can quickly be performed in office.
- Excision: This simple procedure involves the doctor cutting out the wart.
Despite the method used, warts can be remarkably persistent and may require more than one treatment. It is very important to keep follow up appointments even if the wart appears to be gone.
There are a few other options for treating warts. These include laser therapy, chemical peels, bleomycin injections, and immunotherapy. Finally, Southeastern Dermatology is excited to be the first and only provider of Swift therapy which may likely become the preferred first line of treatment for warts.
Don’t be a worrywart. For more information warts and their treatment we encourage you to visit the wart specialists at Southeastern Dermatology. Give us a call at (865) 474-8800 or request an appointment online.