Warts are caused by a viral infection of the cells on the top layer of skin.
Hand warts are usually found around the nails, on the fingers and on the back of the hand. They are more common where skin has been broken and where fingernails are bitten.
Plantar (Foot) warts are usually found on the sole of the foot. Plantar warts tend to grow in a group the size of a quarter or larger. They do not tend to protrude above the skin as much as those on the hands because walking flattens them. Plantar warts can be more common in individuals who perspire heavily or who do a great deal of walking or exercising. Flat warts are smaller and smoother than hand or foot warts. They tend to grow in great numbers and can occur anywhere. In children they are most commonly found on the face, while in adults they often occur in the beard area in men and the legs in women.
Genital warts occur on the genitalia, within the vagina, and on the cervix in women and around the anus and the rectum. Unlike other types of warts, they tend to be small flat bumps that are not rough or scaly.
Warts are passed from person to person, although the risk of catching hand, foot and flat warts is small. Genital warts tend to be very contagious. Some individuals develop warts according to how often they are exposed to the virus. Just as some people are more likely to catch colds, some are more likely to catch the virus that causes warts. Skin that has been damaged in some way, such as in nail biting or picking at hangnails, may cause the virus to occur more easily.
There is a wide variety of treatments for warts, depending on the age of the patient and the type of wart being treated.
Hand warts in children usually can be treated at home by daily application of salicylic acid. This treatment may take weeks to obtain results. For adults and older children the treatment of choice may be cryotherapy or freezing, however, it may take repeated treatments to eradicate the condition. Electrosurgical destruction (burning) may also be used and at times results in complete removal of the wart in one visit. There is a possibility of scarring and some discomfort associated with this treatment option.
Plantar warts are often treated with salicylic acid plasters, surgical removal under local anesthetic, or by applying chemicals to the wart.
Flat warts are most often treated with surface peeling preparations such as salicylic acid.
Genital warts are the most difficult to treat. Repeated treatments with acids or freezing are generally used. In some cases, surgical removal may be indicated. Multiple treatments are normally needed and even then success cannot be guaranteed. All types of warts may be difficult to cure. Although some individuals seek remedies without a prescription, it is important to note that you may mistake a wart for another type of growth. It is necessary to seek medical advice on the diagnosis and treatment.
It is not uncommon for this condition to return due to the fact that the original warts may have shed the virus into the surrounding skin before they were treated. The best way to limit this is to seek early treatment.