While being very active is good for your health in more than one way, there are a few skin conditions that athletes are more susceptible to than other people. One common issue for athletes is developing warts.
A wart is a benign growth that develops on the skin. Warts can appear anywhere, but they’re most common on the hands, feet, and face. Common warts, which are the ones you may associate with witches and toads, appear on the hands and around the nails. These warts are usually skin colored or a bit darker in tone. They can be spotted with black dots in some instances. A wart is usually a raised, uneven lump that feels rough to the touch, though warts do come in different shapes and sizes. Some warts, like the ones that appear on the feet (called plantar warts) are flat and even look like they’re growing inward rather than out. Warts can appear flat anywhere on the body and will have defined borders and a darker center, generally speaking. These warts usually develop in clusters of more than one. In some cases, there can be as many as 100 flat warts developing in a group. Filiform warts are rare, but they feel and look similar to common warts in terms of texture and color. The big difference with filiform warts is that they look like long fibers or strands that grow from the skin, like thick, rough hairs. They grow quickly and mostly develop on the hands and face.
Even if you’ve never had a wart, you’re probably aware of what they are and what they look like on a basic level. What you may not know, however, is how they’re caused and transmitted. A wart is caused by the human papilloma virus, also known as HPV. While you may have heard of HPV as a sexually transmitted infection, HPV is actually a family of viruses that can affect the skin throughout the body. Genital HPV is different from the HPV that causes warts by a few degrees, but they’re close. HPV is highly contagious. It can spread via skin to skin contact or linger on surfaces and spread through indirect contact. It can be spread from your hands to your face, even. Warts are more common on areas of skin where superficial damage is present. That’s why it occurs in people who have hangnails or shave their skin frequently with a razor. HPV can infect unbroken skin, but it’s much more likely to get in if there’s a cut or tear.
So what do warts mean for athletes? In what unique ways are physically active people more susceptible to certain warts? The big reason is how warts spread. Plantar warts are the most common warts that athletes develop. These warts develop on the feet and spread by contact. Indirect contact, like walking barefoot on the same locker room floor as a person with a plantar wart, is the main way that these warts are spread. Warts on the hands can be spread by handling the same ball as a person who has a wart. While this indirect contact isn’t guaranteed to spread warts, it’s far more likely to happen to athletes than those who aren’t engaging in highly physical, close proximity activity with a number of other people. Other sports like wrestling, football, and any other high contact activity can be a hotbed for warts to spread. Fortunately, warts rarely pose health risks and can and should be treated quickly by a dermatologist. Plantar warts are the biggest issue for athletes and non-athletes alike, as these can be painful since you’re putting pressure on them by walking. It may feel like you have a rock in your shoe or just generally sting and hurt in a concentrated area. For many athletes, a plantar wart may put you out of commission until it subsides from treatment. Don’t let this stop you from being active, but take precautions. Wear shower shoes and don’t share equipment with others that hasn’t been sanitized. Don’t bite your nails, as that makes your fingers far more susceptible to warts. Prevention is not always easy for athletes, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for developing a wart.
Warts are not fun for anyone; they’re unsightly, and they can cause some serious discomfort in the right place. Treat your warts quickly and reliably with the team of pros at Northeast Dermatology Associates.
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