Warts are small non-cancerous growths on the skin. Common warts often appear on fingers and hands. Plantar warts grow on the soles of the feet. Flat warts appear in places where a person shaves frequently, such as the face and legs. Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection found on the genitals. Non-genital warts afflict about seven to 12 percent of the population; genital warts affect about one percent.
Wart causes Warts are contagious and can be spread through direct or indirect contact. Plantar warts may be picked up from wet surfaces, such as a shower floor. Genital warts are passed through skin-to-skin contact or sexual activity with an infected person.
Wart symptoms Common warts on the hands and knees are flesh-coloured lumps with a rough surface. Plantar warts may be thick, scaly lesions that contain dark spots and develop on the heel or ball of the foot. Flat warts are fairly smooth, and they may grow in groups. Genital warts are soft, skin-coloured bumps on the vagina, cervix or anus.
Wart diagnosis/tests Your doctor can probably diagnose warts by looking at them. She may want to do a biopsy to make sure it’s not another type of growth, like a callus or skin cancer.
Wart treatment Warts may disappear without treatment within two to three years. They can also be removed with a variety of methods. Topical skin treatments (salicylic acid), liquid nitrogen, surgical excision and laser treatments are all options for removing warts. Warts may come back even after treatment.
Wart prevention To avoid getting warts, you need to prevent contact with HPV the virus that causes common warts. Avoid touching warts, don’t share razors or towels with other people or go barefoot in the gym or at pools; the virus can live on moist areas. To prevent the strains of HPV that cause genital warts, avoid sex with people who may be infected and/or use condoms during sex, although they don’t provide full protection from HPV. You may also want to consider getting an HPV vaccine which protects women who are not already infected with HPV.
Canadian Skin Patient Alliance