What is a wart?

A wart is typically a small, rough, noncancerous tumor that grows on the top layer of skin. Warts often resemble a solid blister or cauliflower, and can appear very light or very dark compared to the surrounding normal skin. Warts are usually painless, but they can be itchy and burning if they are in high-friction areas.

Warts are caused by a viral infection called human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is contagious and can be passed from person to person by direct or indirect contact. The virus can also spread from one location on the body to another in the same person. The virus enters the body through an area of ​​cracked, peeling, or moist skin. The amount of virus present, the location of the contact, and the state of a person's immune system are factors that determine whether an HPV infection will cause a wart to form.

There are many different types of warts, including common warts, flat warts, plantar warts, and genital warts. The common wart is usually raised and dome-shaped with a rough, grayish-brown surface. These warts usually grow on the fingers or the back of the hands and are sometimes called "seed warts" because they contain small blood vessels that look like black seeds.

A flat wart is a small, slightly raised, smooth wart that is usually pink, light brown, or flesh-colored. These warts are most often seen on the face and forehead of an infected person. They can occur in large numbers, with up to 100 flat warts grouped together. They are more common in children than adults and are also called "juvenile warts."

Plantar warts grow on pressure points on the bottom of the feet, and large numbers of these warts can cause difficulty walking, running, jumping, and even standing. Several plantar warts can be grouped together in one area and are called "mosaic warts." Plantar warts usually look like a thick callous, so it's a good idea to have a doctor diagnose the growth as really a wart before treating it.

Genital or venereal warts grow on the genitals, in the pubic area, between the thighs, and inside the vagina and anal canal. Transmitted through sexual activity, genital warts can range in size from small, shiny papules to large cauliflower-like lesions. Genital warts are likely to recur because there is no cure for the virus that causes them and because warts thrive in moist environments. Because the chemicals can actually damage the genital area, these warts should only be treated by qualified medical personnel.

Most warts will eventually go away on their own, expelled by the body's immune system. However, warts can also last for years or recur repeatedly. Although warts are not life-threatening, many people think they are disfiguring and want them removed.

There are several ways a doctor can remove a wart. The most common method is cryosurgery, which involves freezing the wart with a special chemical, usually liquid nitrogen, after which the dampened wart will soon fall off. This treatment is not too painful and rarely produces scars.

Electrosurgery, which involves burning off the wart, is another good alternative treatment. Some doctors use laser treatments to remove warts, but this procedure tends to be more expensive. Doctors can also treat warts with keratolysis, which uses salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells.

There are several over-the-counter options for wart removal available in supermarkets and pharmacies. The most popular treatments include salicylic acid or silver nitrate. These procedures will require several treatments to remove a wart. Over-the-counter cryosurgery kits are also available, but they cost much more than the other treatments.

It's important to realize that these over-the-counter treatments can kill healthy skin and warts, so people should be very careful when applying them. It is always a good idea to seek the advice of a doctor before treating any type of questionable skin growth.

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