Warts are dirty looking growths on the skin which multiply without causing any pain or itching. They seem harmless over most parts of the body except when it appears on pressure-bearing areas of the feet or the fingers.
These are caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which enters the skin through tiny nicks and cuts. Once it gains entry into the upper layers of the skin (epidermis), it hijacks the cell to multiply more rapidly than the surrounding cells, leading to a tiny bump with a rough surface.
Warts can occur at any age and on any part of the body. However, they are commonly seen on the fingers, hands, forearms, legs, face and neck. In housewives and canteen workers they are very common due to repeated injuries and cuts during work. Likewise, they are often seen in embroidery workers, hairdressers and butchers. On the feet, warts commonly occur among farmers and people who walk bare feet.
Types of warts
Here are the types of warts which occur in human beings.
How are warts treated?
Although warts are generally harmless and could even disappear spontaneously when left alone, once they are noticed they need to be quickly removed as they are liable to spread and multiply. Treatment of viral warts is a challenge as they sometimes tend to reappear at newer places. Even after all warts are treated, one should be alert to the appearance of newer warts, as there is no internal medication against HPV.
Chemical treatment: Application of a combination of acids (Salicylic acid-lactic acid in an alcoholic film) to the wart every night after soaking the wart, helps to dry up the superficial layers. By gently scraping with a file and repeating this application over a couple of weeks the wart gets shed off. The process must be continued till the doctor confirms that the entire mass has come off. These acids must be applied with caution to avoid spilling on to eyes and other sensitive areas. On the face, these acids are not usually recommended. It is best to ask your doctor to demonstrate the actual method of application so that no harm is caused to the surrounding skin.
Electrocautery/Lase: The wart is removed by burning it through CO2 laser or electrocautery after numbing it with local anesthetic agents. The entire mass of the wart thus gets expelled and the wound thus created heals over a few days with a neat scar.
Freezing: A cryotherapy tip freezes the wart through a flow of Nitrous oxide gas. Alternatively, ‘liquid nitrogen’ tipped applicator is used to destroy the wart. Over the next few days a bubble develops at the spot which ruptures and heals with normal skin. In some locations, the process needs to be repeated after a couple of weeks to clear the wart.
Surgical removal: In some cases, the wart is too large to be treated by other methods and needs to be operated and removed. When warts occur under the nail or close to the nail bed, surgery to remove the nail may be necessary before removing the wart.
Oral medications:There are no specific oral medicines to treat warts. However, nutrititonal supplements are often given to boost immunity. Tablets containing zinc are given as they work as immuno-modulators and help the body to expel the wart virus.
Warts are thus one of the most harmless of viral infections, but they need to be completely eradicated to prevent it becoming a social nuisance. Left alone, it is bound to multiply on the skin and become contagious to others who mingle together at home, school or at work. It is important to comply with the doctor’s instructions to keep treating it till the last wart is eradicated to avoid the risk of recurrence.