Types of Warts, Characteristics, and How to Remove Them
Warts have been with humanity for thousands of years. Although their appearance is usually harmless and some of them disappear on their own, the truth is that they’re embarrassing, unsightly, and contagious. They can also be painful, especially those that are located on the soles of the feet. Warts grow on the top layer of the skin. The small dark dots that are usually noticeable on them are capillaries that supply blood. Keep reading to discover more about the different types of warts, their characteristics, and how to remove them.
What are warts?
Warts are skin cells that grow abnormally because they’re infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) or for other reasons. There are more than 100 types of HPV and about 10 of them cause skin lesions.
There are some types of warts that can sprout in the genitals, the anus, or the surrounding area. According to the Mayo Clinic, warts on a woman’s cervix can lead to cancer, a deadly disease that requires immediate attention.
Anal and genital warts are spread, most of the time, through sexual transmission. On many occasions, they’re involved with cancers. However, some types of HPV are spread by touching a doorknob or by shaking hands.
There isn’t yet enough scientific evidence to know how often humans can get it, but HPV can be contracted in locker rooms, showers, on surfaces, and through direct person-to-person contact. Therefore, washing hands is a preventive measure.
Types of warts and their characteristics
There are 7 main types of warts. Each of them differs in appearance and sprouts in a specific part of the body.
1. Common warts
Common warts have a raised, granular, rough surface and a round top. They usually have between a light color and a grayish brown. It’s common for them to appear on the fingers and toes, however, they can be found anywhere on the body.
2. Plantar warts
These are located on the soles of the feet and when there’s a group of them in the same area, they’re known as mosaic warts. They usually have a flat, spongy, and rough appearance and tend to cause discomfort when walking or exercising.
If, when you look at the sole of your foot, you notice a small hole surrounded by hardened skin, that could mean that there’s a plantar wart.
3. Flat warts
Flat warts are smaller than the others and are located on the face, although they can also appear on the legs and hands. Their color can range between brownish, pink, and light yellow. Also, they’re rare and not immediately noticeable.
4. Filiform warts
They can be the same color as the skin or yellow, pink, or brown, and are characterized by having the appearance of small 1 to 2-millimeter lumps of flesh. These tend to lodge around the mouth, nose, neck, or under the chin.
They’re also known as facial warts because they appear under the eyelids and lips. They have the potential to spread to other areas of the body and some of them can cause discomfort, although they’re not cancerous.
5. Periungual warts
Their appearance resembles a cauliflower, as they’re rough, dirty, and, at the beginning of their growth, they’re the size of the head of a pin. They’re born around the nails of the feet or of the hands and usually appear in groups. They’re painful when they grow, but not when they’re small.
They can be difficult to treat, so it’s best that treatment begin as soon as they appear. It’s common for these warts to affect children and young adults.
6. Subungual warts
They’re very similar to common warts and usually appear in the area of the fingers. Their biggest drawback is that they can spread to other areas of the body, such as the mouth, lips, or throat.
The recommendation when you have this type is to not bite your nails because you run the risk of spreading the virus to other areas of the body or infecting others.
7. Genital warts
These appear on the genitals, pubic areas, and around or inside the vagina, penis, and anus. They have a soft consistency and occur in groups. They resemble cauliflower. They spread quickly and can be flesh-colored, red, or pink.
According to a study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, they’re painful, as they’re located in a delicate area. They cause bleeding and very strong itching. They must be treated without delay by a specialist.
Can warts be removed at home?
It’s common for warts to disappear on their own, but due to the fact that they’re unsightly and uncomfortable, it’s understandable that you want to eliminate them. This is possible for most with treatments that are available in the pharmacy, but first, you need to remember a few important things:
- Warts that appear in sensitive areas, such as the nostrils, mouth, or genitals, can’t be treated at home. It’s imperative to see a doctor.
- Warts tend to spread to other areas, so the utensils used to treat them can’t be used on other parts of the body or shared with another person.
- If you have diabetes, it’s not advisable to treat foot warts. Diabetes causes loss of sensation in this area, so you may cause injury and make the problem worse.
This consists of an over-the-counter aerosol that’s made up of a concentrate of propane and dimethyl ether. Its function is to freeze the wart by forming a blister around it. After two weeks, the dead tissue falls off and the surface can be scraped.
Salicylic acid treatment
This is an over-the-counter product and you can find it in various presentations, including gels, liquids, or patches. Its concentration could range from 17% to 40%, the latter only for warts located on thicker skin.
Before applying the product, you should soak warts for 15 minutes, clean the dead skin with a pumice stone or file, and apply the substance. The procedure should be repeated 2 times a day for 12 weeks.
The patches are most effective for areas with thick skin, such as the feet. Treatment is continued for 2 more weeks after the wart has disappeared, in order to prevent a recurrence.
According to some testimonies, the method of applying sticky tape patches on wrinkles is effective. It may require several days of taping for a few hours.
What a doctor might do about warts
If even with these home treatments, no improvement is seen, it’s best to consult a doctor. They’ll know how to eradicate warts completely.
It consists of freezing warts with liquid nitrogen. This treatment usually requires several applications, but after a week, you may not see them anymore.
When the doctor applies the liquid nitrogen, a blister will form under and around the wart within a few days. Keep in mind that this treatment can be painful, but it could be effective.
When a doctor offers surgery, it’s usually because the warts haven’t responded to other treatments. There are two types of approaches:
- Minor surgery: This consists of removing warts by cryosurgery, deep freezing, or with the use of an electric needle.
- Laser surgery: Thanks to the intense light of the laser, the tissue of the wart can be destroyed or burned. Although experts affirm that the wound will hurt for the days following the intervention, you should go to the doctor if the bleeding lasts for more than a week, there’s fever, severe pain, a bad smell, or pus.
How to prevent the spread of warts?
If warts are present, it’s possible to prevent them from spreading to other people. To do this, you must comply with some of the guidelines recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology :
- Avoid touching warts.
- Hands and feet must always be kept dry.
- Hands must be washed regularly.
- Don’t enter a hallway or common bathroom barefoot.
- Warts should be covered with bandages.
What to remember about warts?
Most types of warts are caused by the human papillomavirus. Many of them are harmless. However, those on the genitals can cause different types of cancer. In addition, if they present bleeding or ooze pus, a doctor should be seen immediately.
They’re spread from person to person or also by having contact with a surface that contains the virus. Therefore, to prevent contagion, it’s very important to maintain proper hygiene.It might interest you...
- Mayo Clinic Health System [Published 2019 Nov 20]. Genital warts. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/genital-warts/symptoms-causes/syc-20355234
- Mayo Clinic Health System [Published 2020 Apr 20]. Plantar warts. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/plantar-warts/symptoms-causes/syc-20352691
- Yanofsky, V. R., Patel, R. V., & Goldenberg, G. (2012). Genital warts: a comprehensive review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 5(6), 25–36.
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Warts: Overview. [Updated 2019 Nov 7]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279586/
- University of Michigan Health System [Published 2019 Nov 20]. Laser Surgery for Warts. Available from: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw61559
- American Academy of Dermatology. How to heal warts more quickly and prevent new ones. Available from: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/warts-heal