Warts are different from other types of skin tags because they are caused by a virus and unlike moles, can spread. When the human papillomavirus comes into contact with an open cut, even a very small one, it can become infected over time. The most common places for warts to appear are the:
Although benign and often harmless, warts are contagious and can quickly multiply on other areas of your body. If warts do not disappear on their own or after the first round of over-the-counter treatment does not work, then patients should seek treatment from a dermatologist to prevent the development of more warts.
How Do I Identify a Wart?
Warts have distinct characteristics when compared to other types of skin growths. All warts develop in areas where the top layer of skin was infected by a virus, causing one or more of the following symptoms:
- Small bump
Although some warts may heal on their own without treatment, patients can try treating a wart at home before heading to the dermatologist.
Treating Warts At Home
There are many over-the-counter remedies that will remove warts. The one that is most effective and trusted by dermatologists is Compound W. The main ingredient of this medication is salicylic acid, which should be applied directly to the wart. This will cause the top layer of skin to peel away, removing the wart with it.
Although Compound W is a very effective treatment, it does have rare side effects, which include:
- Severe skin irritation
In addition, children and teenagers with the flu, fever, or chickenpox, as well as pregnant or nursing women, should not use Compound W before consulting a healthcare professional to avoid complications from developing.
Stopping the Spread of Warts
The worst part about having one wart is that you can spread them to other parts of your body very easily. To avoid this problem, patients should:
- Avoid contact between the wart and other parts of your body, especially if the skin is broken.
- Bandage the wart to create a sterile barrier to prevent HPV from spreading.
- If you have warts on your fingers, stop biting nails or cuticles. This will prevent your wart from spreading to other fingers.
While these tips are mainly intended to prevent warts from spreading on the patient’s body, it will also keep others from contracting warts from you.
When Should I Seek Treatment from a Dermatologist?
If you have applied Compound W for eight to twelve weeks and seen no improvement in the appearance of your wart, then you will need to consult a dermatologist. When warts are unresponsive to Compound W alone, your dermatologist will apply liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart.
After your dermatologist examines the wart, he or she will begin the cryosurgery by:
- Applying liquid nitrogen with a small applicator or spray.
- Dress the wart with a small bandage.
Cryosurgery will take no more than a minute to perform, and no anesthesia is required.
How Often Do I Need to Undergo Cryosurgery?
Patients will be required to come in for cryosurgery every two to four weeks, depending on their dermatologist’s recommendation. After treatment, the patient will need to continue treating their wart with salicylic acid to remove the wart effectively. The entire treatment may take months to complete.
How Can I Prevent Warts?
Warts are common because of how widespread HPV is. However, there are several simple ways to limit your exposure. These include:
- Wear your own socks, shoes, and other clothing items.
- Do not go barefoot in public areas, especially ones that are damp and warm. If you shower at the gym or pool, wear shower shoes and never go barefoot in the locker room.
- If you have an injury, even a small cut, keep it covered with a bandage. This will seal the barrier and prevent HPV from causing a wart.
- Never borrow someone else’s razor or towel after they’ve used it.
Although these tips are not foolproof, they will significantly reduce the likelihood of developing warts in the future.
Patients with stubborn warts that aren’t responding to over-the-counter medication should call our offices to schedule treatment with Dr. Perri.