Warts

Warts are small skin growths that are generally painless and harmless. Most warts appear on the fingers, hands, and feet. They may be flesh colored, or they may be marked with black dots. Although they are harmless, they can be embarrassing, and may cause itching or pain, particularly on the feet.

Causes

Warts are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). Although HPV is most often thought of as a sexually transmitted disease, there are more than 100 varieties of the virus, which can be transmitted in different ways. Different types of HPV can cause warts on different parts of the body.

HPV can be contracted when the virus enters your body through a cut or wound.

Types

A dermatologist will typically treat three different types of warts:

• Common warts usually occur on the hands and fingers, and appear as rough, raised bumps.
• Flat warts are slightly raised growths with a smooth top. They may be slightly darker than your normal skin color and usually appear on the face, neck, hands, elbows, or knees. The type of HPV that causes flat warts often affects children and young adults.
• Plantar warts are hard growths that appear on the heel or the ball of the foot. These warts may be very painful.

Treatment

The type of treatment used often depends on the type of warts you experience and on the extent of their growth. Some warts can be frozen off with liquid nitrogen or burned with electrocautery. They can also be removed through laser therapy or surgery. Topical Imiquimode and duct tape can be effective.

Over-the-counter treatments containing salicylic acid are often used to treat warts, but may not be as effective as the above methods.