Common warts are generally found on fingers and are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus enters via a cut on the finger or hand, and causes the outer skin cells to rapidly reproduce, resulting in a hard, rough bump known as a wart. While HPV is better known as the culprit of cervical cancer or genital warts, there are more than 100 strains of HPV identified, and it is not the same strain as that of the common wart.
The warts virus can be spread indirectly through objects, such as towels, used by someone who already has the virus. The virus usually enters through cuts on the skin, such as hangnails or scrapes. However, each person's reaction to the HPV virus is unique, so it does not necessarily mean that warts will form if you contract the virus. Sometimes it may take several weeks for the wart to grow, and sometimes it does not appear at all.
Warts can appear in different shapes, sizes, and color, but it will be pretty evident if you do have a wart as they usually appear on the epidermis of the affected area. Characteristics of common warts include:
- Small, fleshy bump(s)
- Gray-brown, pink, or flesh colored
- Rough to the touch
- Can appear by itself or in clusters
- Are usually dome shaped
- Can have the appearance of black dots
- Bleeds when cut open or picked on
Fortunately, they are not harmful and tend to be more of a nuisance than anything else.
Keep in mind that there are many other forms of warts that are caused by different strains of the HPV virus, and can have different symptoms than that of the common wart. Other warts include genital warts, plantar warts, filiform warts, periungual warts and flat warts.
The common wart is benign and will usually go away by itself after a period of time. There are also a few home remedies you may want to try:
- Salicylic Acid: this is a common over-the-counter treatment for warts, and can come in topical solution form or in patches. The acid is used to dissolve and peel off the wart tissue gradually with each application. Be sure to follow the directions thoroughly, as the high acid concentration may damage healthy skin around the wart if used incorrectly.
- Duct Tape: this alternative method has actually proven to be effective as a low cost wart treatment. It involves covering the wart with duct tape for roughly a week, then soaking them in warm water and rubbing off the dead skin cells with a file or pumice stone. The method can be repeated until the wart is gone.
However, if you do not want to wait it out due to cosmetic or other concerns, you can see the doctor for an even faster removal. Some professional treatment options include:
- Prescription retinoid: commonly known as a vitamin A derivative, retinoid creams can disrupt wart tissue growth. However, the skin around the area will also become more susceptible to sunburns during the therapy, so be sure to stay out of the sun.
- Cryotherapy: also known as liquid nitrogen therapy, the doctor destroys the wart by freezing the tissues and causing a blister to form under and around the wart. After a few weeks, the dead skin will fall off and the wound will heal. This is a same-day office procedure and local anesthesia may be administered.
- Surgery: an electric needle is used to destroy and cut off the wart tissue in this minor surgery. Local anesthesia will be administered through injection, and it may leave a scar. Sometimes, laser surgery can also be employed, but this method is usually reserved for more serious cases of wart removal.
- Immunotherapy: the physician may choose to give individuals with more serious cases topical or oral medication prescriptions to try and strengthen the immune system towards the wart virus. However, once the therapy is stopped, the warts may come back again.
Here are some methods that can be used to help prevent contraction and spreading of the wart virus:
- Do not pick at warts or try to cut, shave, or clip them. By doing so, the virus can be spread to your fingers or the tool at hand and infect others.
- Do not share nail clippers if you or someone in your family has warts.
- Wash hands often, thoroughly with warm water and soap, especially after touching warts.
- Keep your hands dry. Moist environments may cause difficulties in wart management.
- Use protective footwear in public showers or locker room floors. Most of the wart virus is contracted in such public places.
- Carefully clean and cover new cuts and scrapes with bandages to keep out the virus.
- Eat a nutritious diet and employ a healthy lifestyle. Individuals who have strong immune systems may be less susceptible to common wart outbreaks and the virus.