If you grew up chasing bumpy-skinned toads in your backyard, you’ve likely heard the old wive’s tale that laying hands on these knobbly reptiles would inevitably lead to warts.
That bit of childhood mythology, of course, isn’t true. All warts result from a skin infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 100 different types of HPV, and many of them can cause the tell-tale fleshy growth to appear if they manage to come into contact with your skin.
While warts are harmless and typically disappear on their own once your body’s immune system moves in to destroy the virus, they can be unsightly and sometimes feel sore or itchy. They’re also contagious, so if you have a wart in an area with skin-to-skin contact– such as between your fingers or toes– there’s a good chance another one will pop up nearby.
Types of Warts
Because the human papillomavirus has to penetrate your skin to get inside your body, most warts appear after you’ve cut yourself and come into contact with a surface harboring the microbe.
If you notice a bump forming after healing from a minor wound, the location, color, and shape can help you identify whether or not you might have a wart.
Common warts, or verruca vulgaris, are hard, elevated bumps with a rough, greyish surface. They sometimes have visible black dots in the larger, fleshy nodes. While they can grow anywhere on the body, they’re most commonly found on the fingers, elbows, knees, or toes.
Some common warts are so small that they’re barely visible, but others can grow to around the size of a garden pea.
Flat warts, also called juvenile warts, are more common in children than adults. You can identify them by their small size, flattened surface, and pink, yellow, or brown color.
Verruca plana usually arise on the face, thighs, and arms, forming clustered groups.
Plantar and Mosaic Warts
If you’ve ever found a hard, painful lump on the side or sole of your foot, there’s a chance you’ve developed a plantar wart. They can be very painful, as pressure and friction from walking irritate the growth.
This type of wart can resemble a bit of hardened skin, similar to a callus, that grows larger over time.
Mosaic warts also appear on the feet and look similar to plantar warts but tend to be flat and pale. They also grow in clusters like flat warts.
Facial growths caused by HPV are called filiform warts, which look very different than any other type. Instead of being relatively flat and round, these jut out like fleshy spikes around the eyes, nose, and mouth.
Many people mistake these tiny nodules for skin tags, which look very similar. However, it’s still best to get an official diagnosis. Left untreated, the virus can spread to other parts of your face causing even more filiform warts to appear.
How Are Warts Treated?
While home remedies and drug store wart removal products are available, working with a trusted dermatologist is the best way to treat the problem.
After diagnosing that the growth results from an HPV skin infection, your doctor will work to find the best treatment plan. Sometimes, it’s best to wait it out, as most warts can resolve without intervention. If further treatment is necessary, there are many different options available, including:
- Topical creams such as imiquimod or fluorouracil
- Antiviral injections and lasers for treating stubborn warts or large clusters
- Shave excision
- Cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen
- Cantharidin acid
If you’re tired of dealing with a painful or unsightly wart, schedule an appointment with our board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Elizabeth Briden, at Advanced Cosmetics & Skincare Institute. She’ll find the safest solution that will still effectively banish the bump.