Warts are the most common skin infection that humans get. Over the course of one’s life, almost everyone gets at least one. There are eight different types of warts, and they all look different and grow on different parts of the body. There are also some skin lesions that look like warts, but aren’t really. This article will explain what the eight different types of warts are, what they look like, and how you can get rid of them at home or with a doctor’s help.
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It’s important to identify your warts as early as possible so you can treat them fast. If you catch them early, you can stop them from becoming painful or bothersome full-grown eyesores. When a wart first starts to form, it can be bumpy or flat, so it may not be so easy to figure out exactly what it is. Over time though, skin warts will begin to steal extra blood supply from the surrounding skin.
When this happens, you’ll probably notice a dark spot in the center of the growth. This means the HPV infection has set in fully. If it’s not treated immediately, it will grow into one of the eight different types of warts and keep getting larger till your immune system kills the virus. This could be anywhere from six weeks to two years, depending on how large the wart is and how healthy you are.
Warts can range in size from as small as the tip of a pencil to so large that they cause severe deformity. They can occur as a single wart or in clusters of dozens. Because they are so variable in appearance, size and number, it can help to see a doctor so you can know for sure what you are dealing with and the best way to approach your treatment.
Who Gets Them
Everyone gets warts. They are most common in children who haven’t built up an immunity to the HPV virus yet, but they are also very common in young adults who have just become sexually active. Once a person has caught the virus, it remains in the skin even after the symptoms disappear. This means that warts can reappear months, or even years later because of a problem with immunity, or for no apparent reason at all.
People who chew on their nails are particularly vulnerable to periungual warts. These are warts that grow around fingernails or toenails. This is because the HPV virus usually enters the skin where it’s damaged.
It can enter through a:
- minor skin infection, or
- even just a minor abrasion.
This is why roughly 70% of the population are infected with HPV. The most common site of infection was the outer skin, but infection was also found in the genitals, inside the mouth and even inside the gut. So, as you can see, if you have a wart, you’re definitely not alone. Skin warts often heal on their own over time but can still cause risk through secondary infection. To learn more about how to treat infected warts, read this article.
Picking at warts can cause the infection to spread if the virus stays under the fingernails. It can also spread to others. Trying to pick off a wart will also not remove all of the infection, leaving the wart to grow back again. It can also cause a secondary infection by introducing bacteria, fungus and viruses to already compromised skin cells. Instead, cover the wart with a bandage when you are not applying your treatment and wash your hands thoroughly when you are done. If the treatment requires sloughing off the wart, use a clean sanding stone and be very careful not to hurt the surrounding skin as you work.
There are eight basic types of warts:
- Genital warts – These occur on or around the genital area. They are almost always caused by sexual activity, but rarely can be spread there from other parts of the body. Read about genital warts here.
- Plantar warts – These grow deep into the bottoms of the feet. They usually have more obvious black spots in the center and can grow very large and painful. Read about plantar warts here.
- Flat warts – These are most often found on the face and neck. They are small, flat and usually occur in large clusters. Read about flat warts here.
- Filiform warts – These grow around the nose and mouth most often. They look like a skin tag and are quite often the same color as the surrounding skin, although they can be dark brown. Read about filiform warts here.
- Periungual warts – These grow around fingernails and toenails and underneath the nail bed. They are often quite painful because the nail bed is so sensitive. Read about periungual warts here.
- Common warts – These grow on fingers and toes most often, but they can also grow elsewhere. They tend to look like cauliflower and have rounded tops. Read about common warts here.
- Mosaic warts – These are a type of plantar wart that grows in clusters into the deeper layers of skin. Read about mosaic warts here.
- Oral warts – Sometimes these warts are sexually transmitted. Sometimes they are caught from chewing on fingers. They can occur on the gums, tongue, roof of the mouth, around the lips or gums or in the throat. Read about oral warts here.
Seborrheic warts, also called senile warts, are not included in this list because they are not true warts. To learn more about seborrheic warts and how they differ from true warts, read here.
Skin Colored Warts
Filiform warts are often the same color as your skin. They appear most commonly on the face – very often on eyelids. Since they grow outward like skin tags, it can be very tempting to try to rip them off, but this will just allow them to grow back again. Instead, the wart needs to be killed all the way down to the base. A doctor may cut it off and then burn the rest of it off at the base, but this should be done by a professional because it’s painful and requires precision.
Other warts occur in all types of colors, including a grayish cast that develops on the top of common warts. Although they almost never turn cancerous, it does happen on the rare occasion. When this happens, the wart will usually change color, become irritated and start to bleed around the edges as it pulls in more capillaries for growth. If you notice a skin colored wart start to change color or grow extremely rapidly, you should see a doctor about it right away. To learn more about cancerous warts, read here.
I Have Warts on Skin
Now that you know you have warts on your skin, what should you do about it?
There are three different options you can take, assuming that you’re sure the growth is a harmless wart:
- You can wait and see if it goes away on its own. If you choose this route, it will likely take several weeks to several months to disappear. If the wart does not eventually go away, the next option is to see a doctor.
- If you go to see the doctor to treat your wart, he or she can likely remove it in minutes with local anesthetic and just one treatment. Others may take more treatments if there are several of them or if they are very large.
- You can also try treating your warts at home. Because warts are so common, there are hundreds of at-home treatments you can buy at the pharmacy. There are also several homeopathic remedies such as castor oil and banana peels that you can try if you want to use a more gentle remedy.
If you decide to treat your wart at home, it’s important to remember that natural treatments may be gentler and have fewer side effects, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have any. Users should always perform an allergy test before starting treatment. You should also discuss the treatment with your physician to make sure that the possible side effects won’t be a problem for any preexisting conditions that you may have. Always proceed with caution until you know exactly how your skin is going to react to the medicine.
What if They are Under the Skin?
Warts that grow into the skin instead of up are called plantar warts. They grow wherever the skin is thickest, like on the soles of the feet. These warts occur most often in children and teenagers who catch them at the school locker room or while playing barefoot. Since they can grow deeply into the tissues of the skin, they can become very painful and can even affect walking. So, they should be treated as soon as possible to avoid the months or years of pain that would be caused by waiting for them to heal naturally.
Getting Warts on Skin Removed
Getting your warts removed at the doctor is fairly inexpensive. Also, removal is covered by most insurance because it’s not just a cosmetic procedure.
If the doctor decides to remove the wart, he or she will likely use one of these methods:
- Cryosurgery. The wart is frozen off with liquid carbon dioxide or liquid nitrogen. Read about liquid nitrogen for warts removal here.
- Surgical removal. The wart is simply cut out of the skin under local anesthetic, often causing a small scar. Read more here.
- Electro cauterization. The wart is burned off with electricity and then surgically removed at the base. Read more here.
- Bleomycin injection. This is a medicine used to cure cancer, but it can also eliminate warts. An anesthetic will be needed because the injections are painful. Read about bleomycin injection here.
- Laser removal. The laser is used to destroy the blood vessels that are feeding the wart. Once the blood vessels are destroyed, the wart blackens and falls off on its own. Read about laser wart removal here.
Some of these procedures may sound a little scary, but it’s really quite simple and safe. Your doctor will be able to explain the entire process to you before he or she starts, and you’ll feel much better once that pesky wart is finally gone.
You can find further details of Types of warts here.