Warts and All – All About Warts
Usually associated with frogs and witches, warts are actually common, non-cancerous growths in the top layer of the skin, caused by a viral infection — human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Kids most often get them on the hands, feet and face.
Warts are passed from person to person, sometimes indirectly. The incubation time - from the time of contact to appearance of the wart - can be several months long. Wart viruses occur more easily if the skin has been damaged in some way, which explains the high frequency of warts in children who bite their nails or pick at hangnails.
Fortunately, warts can’t cause illnesses, and they can be removed.
Types of warts
Here’s a look at the several different kinds of warts — and their treatments:
- Common warts: As the name implies, this type of wart is the kind most kids get. They usually grow on the fingers, around the nails and on the backs of the hands. Common warts can be treated at home on a daily basis with salicylic acid gel, solution or plaster. There are several types of over-the-counter treatments you can use to remove the wart. There is usually little discomfort, but it may take many weeks before the wart disappears.
Your child’s dermatologist can also treat them by "painting" with cantharidin. The solution causes a blister to form under the wart, allowing dead skin to be clipped away in about a week or so. Doctors can also treat warts with cryosurgery — using special chemicals to freeze the wart, causing a scab to form as the skin heals. It usually takes one to three treatments over the course of a few weeks to completely destroy the wart.
- Flat warts: These warts are smaller and smoother than the other types and usually grow in large numbers of 20 to 100. Although they can occur anywhere, children most commonly get them on the face. Since flat warts are numerous, dermatologists prefer to treat them with "peeling" methods, using daily applications of salicylic acid, tretinoin, glycolic acid or other surface-peeling preparations.
- Foot warts: Called plantar warts, they’re usually found on the soles of the feet. Most plantar warts don’t stick up above the surface like common warts, because the pressure of walking flattens them and pushes them back into the skin. However, they can be very painful, feeling like a nail in the shoe, and can be difficult to treat, because the bulk of the wart lies below the skin surface. Topical treatments are similar to those for common warts, but often some type of surgery is necessary to get rid of plantar warts.
Reviewed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD
Date: October 2012