What Are Common Warts
Verruca vulgaris, also known as common warts, are a variety of skin growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). As one of the most prevalent types of warts, common warts can appear on a variety of body parts but they are most frequently found on the hands and fingers. These warts come in a variety of shapes and sizes and may have a dome-shaped or irregular surface. Common warts are also typically flesh-colored or grayish, but they can occasionally be darker in color.
Although common warts are usually harmless, they can be uncomfortable and cause embarrassment. Children are particularly vulnerable to common warts because their immune systems may not have developed immunity to the HPV strains that cause them; however, with that being said, because of their diminished ability to fight viral infections, common warts are also more likely to occur in people with impaired immune systems (such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing certain medical treatments). In some instances, the immune system can successfully fight off the HPV virus, causing the warts to retreat and vanish naturally over time. In other instances, treatment is sometimes required.
Common warts are not as contagious as certain other types of warts, and while they can be spread by direct contact or touching infected surfaces, they are typically regarded as less contagious than certain types of warts like genital warts. Nonetheless, it is important to take proper steps to prevent the spread of warts and, if necessary, seek medical assistance for suitable treatment.
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Common Wart Symptoms
Common warts rarely pose a health risk, but they can at times be uncomfortable or unsightly. In light of this, sometimes people may pursue treatment to alleviate their symptoms or for cosmetic purposes. Common wart symptoms typically include the following:
- Raised or rough texture: Common warts have a rough surface texture that can feel lumpy or uneven to the touch. This is often described as having a “cauliflower-like” appearance. This roughness is caused by the excessive growth of keratin, a tough protein that forms the outer layer of the skin. As the wart grows, it disrupts the normal texture of the skin, resulting in an uneven surface. Understanding the rough surface and appearance of common warts is useful for distinguishing them from other skin conditions.
- Flesh-colored or grayish appearance: Understanding the possible color variations of common warts can assist to distinguish them from other skin conditions. This is due to the fact that common warts typically develop on the epidermis, the uppermost layer of skin. However, the hue can be affected by a variety of factors, such as the pigmentation of the person’s skin, the location, and the degree of blood vessel involvement. Despite the fact that these are the most prevalent hues of warts, brown or black warts are also not uncommon.
- Small size and clustering: Common warts occur in a variety of sizes, making them a versatile form of skin growth. They can be as small as a pinhead, scarcely visible to the naked eye, or grow to a few centimeters in diameter, becoming more noticeable on the surface of the skin. When multiple warts develop in close proximity, they can form a cluster as the virus spreads and infects adjacent skin cells, forming a group. The size and clustering of common warts may also impact daily activities.
- Location: Common warts have a tendency to occur in specific areas of the body due to various factors. The hands, fingers, and areas around the nails are the most common locations for common warts. This is due to the fact that these locations are frequently exposed to surfaces and objects that may harbor HPV. Direct contact with contaminated surfaces or objects permits the virus to enter minor cuts, abrasions, or weakened areas of the skin, resulting in the formation of warts.
- Pain or tenderness: In nature, common warts are typically asymptomatic. However, they can occasionally cause moderate discomfort or tenderness, especially when located in areas that are subject to pressure or friction or in areas that are more sensitive and have a thinner protective layer of skin. The sensitivity caused by common warts is predominantly the result of their presence and interaction with the surrounding skin and underlying tissues. If common warts are causing significant discomfort or pain, seek medical advice.
- Black dots: Occasionally, small black dots can be seen on the surface of common warts. These black dots, often referred to as “seeds,” can be a telltale sign of common warts. However, it is important to note that these dots are not seeds. Instead, they are small blood vessels that have become trapped in the wart. The presence of black dots can assist in distinguishing common warts from other types of skin growths; however, not all have these dots as their formation depends on the wart’s particular characteristics and stage.There are several types of warts that one can develop on different parts of the body, each with its own unique characteristics and treatment options, and the type of wart that you contract very much depends on the type of HPV that infects you and where it is located.
Common Wart Causes
The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes common warts, medically known as verruca vulgaris. HPV is a highly contagious virus that can infect the outermost layer of skin, causing warts to develop. There are more than one hundred distinct types of HPV, but only a few strains cause common warts – these include HPV types 2, 4, and 7.
The transmission of HPV occurs either through direct contact with the virus or through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Common wart-causing HPV strains flourish in warm and humid environments, making public pools, locker rooms, and communal showers common sources of infection, and the virus can infiltrate the skin through tiny breaks, cuts, or abrasions. The virus essentially invades skin cells, causing the formation of warts.
Certain variables can increase the likelihood of contracting HPV and developing lesions, and some individuals are also more susceptible to contracting common warts than others (such as those with compromised immune systems, children and adolescents). Personal habits such as nail biting or picking at hangnails can additionally render individuals more likely to developing common warts because they create skin openings that allow HPV to easily enter. Therefore, understanding the causes of common warts highlights the importance of preventive measures and common wart treatments.
Common Wart Diagnosis
Common warts on skin are often diagnosed based on their distinctive appearance and location on the body. Dermatologists and healthcare physicians, for example, can often detect common warts through a visual examination of the skin. The size, color, and location of the warts must be assessed by a medical professional during this examination.
Common warts’ distinguishing characteristics, such as their rough texture, raised look, and “cauliflower-like” surface, contribute to their identification. During the examination, a dermatologist or healthcare physician may inquire about any symptoms connected with the warts, such as discomfort or itching. The presence of any black dots, which are trapped blood vessels, might also help to confirm the diagnosis of common warts.
When the diagnosis is unclear or the growths do not exhibit usual characteristics, the healthcare professional may then conduct a biopsy – a small sample of wart tissue is taken and sent to a laboratory for examination. This method aids in the confirmation of the diagnosis and the exclusion of other potentially dangerous skin disorders.
It is important to remember that while most common warts are benign and can disappear on their own, it is best to see a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and help on how to treat them if the diagnosis isn’t clear or if the warts keep coming back, are spreading quickly, or are causing a great deal of pain.
Common Wart Treatments
There are several treatment options available for common warts, depending on the size, location, and severity of the warts, as well as personal preferences. However, it is important to understand that many common warts can resolve on their own without treatment, as the body’s immune system eventually fights the infection. Treatment may nevertheless be sought for cosmetic reasons, to alleviate discomfort, or to prevent the spread of warts.
As an initial common wart treatment, over-the-counter (OTC) treatments are frequently used as typically, these treatments contain salicylic acid which progressively softens and dissolves the wart tissue. However, healthcare professionals may in some cases prescribe topical medications containing stronger ingredients, such as podophyllin or imiquimod, to treat common warts. These medications are typically used when other treatments have been unsuccessful or when the warts are extensive.
In addition to topical medications, cryotherapy is an alternative option for treating common warts. This method involves freezing the wart using liquid nitrogen and is a widely used treatment approach. However, it is typically performed by a healthcare professional, and multiple sessions may be required to achieve optimal results. In cases of more persistent or recurring warts, common wart treatments such as laser therapy and immunotherapy can be considered. Laser therapy employs focused laser beams to eliminate the wart tissue, while immunotherapy works by stimulating the body’s immune response to combat the virus. These options can be explored particularly when dealing with stubborn or recurrent warts.
Electrosurgery or curettage is another common wart treatment procedure that is performed under local anesthesia. This technique involves using an electric current or a sharp instrument called a curette to remove the wart. Subsequently, the resulting wound is cauterized to manage bleeding. Electrosurgery or curettage is usually advised for larger or persistent warts that have not responded to previous treatments.
Seeking guidance from a healthcare professional is crucial to undergo a comprehensive examination and receive a personalized common wart treatment plan, as the selection of treatment depends on various factors. Based on the individual’s specific situation and preferences, healthcare professionals can recommend the most suitable treatment option.
Common Wart Prevention
While it can be difficult to prevent common warts, especially since the HPV strain that causes them is highly contagious, taking the proper precautions can reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus and developing common warts. These include the following:
- Practice good hygiene: Regular hand washing with soap and water can assist in removing any HPV particles from the skin, and keeping the skin clean and dry can also prevent the virus from entering the body through microscopic cuts and abrasions.
- Avoid direct contact: To reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, avoid touching common warts on yourself or others. This includes refraining from plucking or scratching common warts as this can also lead to their spread.
- Protect cuts and breaks in the skin: Covering wounds, scrapes, and other skin breaks with clean bandages or dressings can serve as an HPV barrier. This reduces the likelihood that the virus will infiltrate the skin and cause warts.
- Wear protective footwear in public areas: Wearing sandals or flip-flops when walking in public locations with warm and moist conditions such as communal showers and locker rooms can help to protect the feet from direct contact with the virus.
- Avoid sharing personal items: It is important to avoid sharing personal items with other individuals such as towels, socks, shoes, and nail clippers. These objects have the potential to harbor HPV, thus making it easier for the virus to spread.
- Boost immune system: Maintaining a strong immune system can aid in HPV infection prevention. This includes adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, having sufficient rest, and managing stress levels effectively.
Although these common wart prevention methods can reduce the likelihood of contracting common warts, it is essential to remember that no method is failsafe. If you believe you have been exposed to the virus and/or have developed a wart, it is recommended that you seek medical attention and advice from a healthcare professional.
When to Look for Medical Help?
Common warts that are painful or disrupt daily life should be treated, such as warts that are located in areas of pressure or friction. Should there be any changes in the appearance of the common warts, such as an increase in size, bleeding, or unusual discoloration, we highly suggest having them evaluated by a healthcare professional as these signs may indicate the need for further investigation or a different treatment approach.