Warts are non-cancerous growths caused by an infection of the top layers of the skin by the human papilloma virus.
There are several different types of wart and their appearance varies depending on their location.
Common warts usually grow on the fingers, around the nails and on the backs of the hands. They appear as skin colored with a rough surface and black dots.
Plantar warts are located on the soles of your feet, while palmar warts grow on the palms of your hands. Because of the pressure of hand use or walking, these warts are usually pushed into the skin and appear flat with tiny black dots and loss of the skin lines. Plantar warts may feel like a pebble in the shoe and are notorious for being painful.
Flat warts are small, smooth warts that grow in large numbers and are most commonly found on the face.
Genital warts, known as condyloma accuminata, are sexually transmitted. They are usually skin colored, may be rough or smooth, and can appear on any area of the genital region including inside the vagina, on the cervix, on the anal verge and within the rectum. In women, some types of genital warts are associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer while, in men, perianal warts may carry a risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
There are a variety of modalities utilized in the treatment of warts. Most commonly, warts are destroyed using cryosurgery (freezing), electrosurgery (burning), or application of an acid. An alternative approach is immunotherapy, in which the body’s immune system is triggered to fight the wart using a variety of agents (e.g. imiquimod, cantharidin, candida antigen). Additional options include topical chemotherapeutics (e.g. bleomycin) and other medications that prevent the wart virus from dividing (e.g. podophyllin). Regardless of the modality employed, repeat treatments are usually required.