Warts are a frustrating but benign skin condition that nobody wants to have. Unfortunately, warts are very common and myths about them and their treatment are abundant.
Warts are noncancerous skin growths caused by a virus infecting the topmost layer of skin. The virus responsible for warts is called human papillomavirus (HPV), which affects the human body in a number of ways.
There are many myths and misconceptions about warts that have circulated since they first appeared, ranging from the bizarre to the plausible. Let’s debunk a view of them.
Many people who get warts get them on their hands. This happens for a number of reasons, but it’s important to understand that warts can actually appear anywhere on the body. Warts are common on hands and fingers because they are contagious and can be spread by physical contact with other warts, or even objects that have come into contact with them. Warts are more inclined to appear in areas where the skin is broken or cut, so people who bite their nails or have hangnails are more inclined to develop warts. Warts can very easily be spread by your hands to other parts of your body, so it’s important to cover the affected skin to prevent more warts.
Warts that grow on the feet are called plantar warts. These warts are troublesome because they can cause pain and irritation, since they often grow on the soles of feet. Most warts are not painful, but since plantar warts are subject to repeated pressures, they can feel like pebbles stuck in your shoe. They often grow in clusters referred to as mosaic warts, spreading across the bottom surface of the foot when you sweat. Due to the near constant pressure on our feet, warts can grow inward or appear flat on the skin.
Warts can appear in many shapes and sizes. Some warts are flat, but others can look like threads or fingers jutting from the skin. Warts are always a sign of HPV infection, but they can form very slowly or look totally unlike the common warts you’re accustomed to seeing.
Flat warts can happen anywhere on your body and don’t look anything like a wart you’d see on a hand or the face. They are smaller and smoother than common warts, often looking more like blisters or calluses than dry bumps. When on the feet or other areas exposed to friction, flat blisters can go unnoticed or undiagnosed. Men often develop flat warts on their faces, and women develop them on their legs most commonly. This is because these areas are frequently shaved and therefore more prone to damage and HPV infection. Flat warts grow in large clusters. You usually won’t have a singular flat wart since most people get between 20 and 100 at once.
Filiform warts are warts that form in hair or thread-like tendrils off of the skin. These warts most commonly appear on the hands or the face, around the eyes, mouth, and nose. Unlike common warts, filiform warts can grow very quickly and affect people with compromised immune systems more often than those with normal immune systems.
It’s entirely possible that your warts might go away on their own. This is most common with children, and for some kids warts come and go during childhood. There are plenty of ways to treat your warts if they’re stubborn, cause you pain, or have spread to multiple areas. Your dermatologist is trained to recognize warts and distinguish them from other skin conditions. Self-diagnosing and treating warts can cause scarring and further skin infection, so if a wart won’t go away, please see a doctor.
If you go online, or if you grew up with warts, there are a number of common household items that allegedly can treat warts. Most of these at-home treatments are unsubstantiated or downright false. For instance, some people have said that applying banana peels to the wart can heal the wart. This is not supported by clinical studies and does not “cure” warts. Other people recommend using duct tape to treat warts. This practice has some basis in reality, but requires weeks of applying duct tape and later removing it. Applying duct tape to your skin is not recommended because it can cause further skin irritation. There are plenty of other, much safer, and more reliable ways to remove warts that your dermatologist can recommend.
Warts are not life-threatening, but nobody wants to deal with them for long. If you have warts, avoid the online myths and visit your New England dermatologist for quick and effective treatment options.