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Warts

Introduction

I was absent mindedly fiddling with a ring a couple of years back and noticed a small rough bump on my finger. At first a dismissed it as a bug bite or a climbing callus but as it grew just slightly I was horrified to realize it was wart! In my mind warts were a product Disney invented in order for witches to scare small children. As a twenty something woman, who had no intention of terrifying small children, I couldn’t possibly have a wart?

It turns out however, that warts are pretty common. They can be slightly alarming and with the constant media attention that shines on cancer you couldn’t be blamed if that was the first thought that came to mind. Ultimately though warts are harmless and are very treatable with over the counter products.

Symptoms

Warts most commonly appear on your hands, arms and legs. Genital warts are a very specific type of wart that affects you genital area and they are a little different from the common wart. Common warts are:

  • Raised bumps of skin
  • Rough to the touch
  • May contain small black dots (these are clotted blood vessels)
  • Can appear on their own or in little clusters

Causes

  • Warts and verrucas are caused by a few variants of the human papilloma virus (HPV)
    •  HPV comes in hundreds of different variations and although some can cause cancer the types that cause warts and verrucas are harmless.
  • The HPV is usually transferred via the floor or an object that has been exposed to a verruca
    • Pools are particularly common places to pick up verrucas as the virus thrives in warm moist environments and the prolonged exposure of your skin to water makes it soft and more vulnerable
  • The virus will then work its way into the skin via a small crack, cut or graze
  • You may take a couple of weeks or even a month to show symptoms after you have contracted the virus

Treatment

Most warts will clear up on their own. However, this can take up to 2 years and if yours is painful or annoying you may wish to treat it. There is a variety over the counter products to help with warts. These treatments can be effective but warts are often stubborn and it may take up to 12 weeks to see products work. Patience and persistence is therefore required. If after this time you are still in pain and the treatment hasn’t worked or your wart comes back you could have a chat with your doctor. There are a couple of prescription medications or procedures that can be used to get rid of warts. The doctor will also be able to check that it is just a run of the mill wart and not something else.  Also be careful if you are diabetic or have circulatory problems as you may need to be a little more careful regarding how might be the best way to treat them.

    Over-the-Counter
    There are a range of over-the-counter products that come in the forms of sprays, gels and creams. Most of them contain the active ingredient salicylic acid which research has shown to be effective at clearing verrucas and warts. Best course of use:

    • Gently (warts may bleed) remove dead skin in the area with a pumice stone or emory board
      • Be sure not to use elsewhere on the body as warts are very contagious and you could spread the virus to other parts
    • Soak the area in warm water for 5-10 minutes to soften skin
    • Apply to the affected area using the directions
      • Apply sparingly and carefully as salicylic acid will also damage healthy skin

Medication

If the above medicine does not work you doctor may give you topical (a cream or gel to apply) medicine

  • Formaldehyde
    • This may stain skin brown
  • Gluteraldehyde
  • Poctophyllin
    • This can cause intense swelling and potentially a further infection

They may also suggest Crytotherapy:

  • They freeze the wart with liquid nitrogen
    • This may be sprayed on or dabbed on in liquid form
  • This intense cold will kill the wart but will also damage some healthy skin causing a few common short term side effects
    • Pain at the site of application
    • Blister
    • Scab for 7-10 days

Prevention

  • Avoid direct contact with a wart and if you touch one wash your hands well immediately after
  • Keep your hands dry
  • Avoid biting your nails
  • Don’t pick at the wart you could very easily spread it to other parts of your body

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