A wart is a tiny, hard bump on the skin, with a rough surface that may look like the surface of a cauliflower. Warts vary in color (white, pink, brown), and inside the wart are tiny spots that may look like black hairs or specks. These spots are actually blood vessels that are filled with blood clots.
Warts can affect any area of the body, but they are most common on the fingers, hands, arms and feet. They are usually painless, except when they affect the sole of the foot (plantar warts), where they can cause discomfort that feels like walking on a small stone. When warts affect the palms or soles, they may be flattened and level with the surface of the skin, instead of appearing as little bumps. Sometimes a wart can have complications like itching or bleeding, or it may become infected by bacteria and become hot, red, and tender.
Warts are tiny skin infections usually caused by viruses of the human papilloma virus (HPV) family. Scientists estimate that about 25% of us have had a wart somewhere on our bodies at some time. Children are more commonly affected than older people. Warts also can involve the genital area, but the discussion here is limited to the wart types associated with the typical skin lesions on fingers. The viruses that cause warts are passed from person to person by close physical contact. Even a tiny cut or scratch can make any area of skin more vulnerable to warts.
Options for treatment:
- Cryo-therapy (freezing) the wart. We can do this in our office, or alternatively, cryo-therapy is available over the counter.
- Immune therapy consisting of injecting the wart with skin test material causing an immune reaction. This immune reaction can cause the body to reject the virus that causes war ts.
- Doing nothing. Most warts will resolve without treatment within 2 years.
- Salicylic acid compound (Duofilm, Compound W, Wart Stick). Use as directed on the bottle.
- Duct tape treatment. In a study reported by Drs. Focht, Spicer and Fairchok in Arc hives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine 2002;156(10):971-974, the common “fix-it ” duct tape was shown to be very effective in eradicating warts in children. Overall, 85% of duct tape treated patients were wart-free at 2 months after beginning treatment. Usually the wart was gone by 28 days.
Duct Tape Treatment Protocol:
- Place a small piece of duct tape on the wart and leave the tape in place for six days.
- After 6 days, remove the tape, soak the area in water and then rub the area with an emery board or pumice stone until the dead skin is removed.
- After 12 hours without the duct tape, place a new piece of duct tape on the wart.
- Continue this cycle (steps 1, 2 and 3) for 2 months or until the wart is gone. In most cases the wart will be gone by 28 days.
A different kind of wart like lesion is molluscum contagiosum. Due to the pox virus, these skin lesions are small, about the size of a sesame seed, and raised with a central depression. They are very common during childhood, and especially common for children with eczema. Treatment options are:
- Doing nothing. They will resolve on their own in about two years.
- Place a medication on them, causing them to blister. Consult us for this.
- Remove them with curettage. Consult us for this.