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Warts 411: Our Guide on What to Know

Notice a strange mark on your foot or hand? Is it raised or scaly? Well, it might be a wart, a common skin infection that is harmless. Let’s clear the air; they aren’t cancerous!

Still, these things can be unsightly. Not to mention you don’t want to spread the infection causing it in the first place.

Anyone can get warts. But according to the American Academy of Dermatology, children and teens, people who frequently bite their nails, and those with weakened immune systems are more prone to getting them.

You may have never had a wart. You could have one and not know it’s a wart. Or, you may need this information for a future outbreak. After all, most people will get one wart (or more!) in their lifetime, according the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Whatever the reason, here is Healthy State’s 411 guide to common warts and what to do about them.

What causes warts?

Warts are a skin infection caused by viruses called human papillomavirus (HPV). This might sound unappealing, but some estimates conclude about half the human population is a carrier of an HPV virus. It is easier to catch a virus that causes warts when you have a cut or scrape on your skin. Even a micro-tear on the skin will open you up, so to speak, to a wart manifesting.

You can spread warts from one place on your body to another. They can also spread from person to person. You can get warts from touching a wart on someone’s body. Some people get a wart, such as a plantar wart, after touching something that another person’s wart touched, such as a towel. It often takes a few months for warts to grow large enough to see.

How do you treat a wart?

Some small warts can be treated effectively with over-the-counter medication, most of which rely on the active ingredient salicylic acid to exfoliate the keratinocytes which contain the virus. These OTCs can come in forms of a gel, lotion, or stick tube (resembling lip balm).

“While home wart treatments with salicylic acid can be effective, many times they are not enough to effectively treat warts. I recommend seeing a board-certified dermatologist for an evaluation and treatment options of warts that are difficult to treat,” said Vlad Ratushny, MD, PhD a dermatologist at Massachusetts Dermatology Associates in Beverly, Mass.

If you want a faster way to kill the wart a visit to the dermatologist will be in order. Doctors have various methods to remove the wart. Some of these include liquid nitrogen to freeze it off, various prescription creams that can help, injections with immune system activating candida Antigen and other modalities.

How can I prevent them from spreading?

“Don’t pick or scratch warts and never touch someone else’s wart,” Ratushny said. It’s also very important to wear protective footwear, flip-flops or similar, in communal showers or on swimming pool decks. If you get a wart, be sure to keep it dry since moisture allows it to spread easier.”

Finally, know that treating a wart can take time. If you’re treating it yourself, it could take up to 12 weeks for the that plantar wart, or any other, to leave your foot.

If you have a wart or have questions about them, speak with a Lahey Health provider.

*The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please consult a physician regarding your specific medical condition, diagnosis and/or treatment.

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