Warts are a common skin condition resulting from infection by one or another strain of human papillomavirus (HPV). There are several types of warts that can affect individuals of any age, but some types are more commonly found in children and some more often found in adults. Many types of warts, especially those usually found on children, disappear on their own. When troublesome, warts can be treated with medications or otherwise removed.
Patients with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or other immune disorder or those who have had organ transplants, are particularly susceptible to warts. Since warts are contagious through direct skin contact, strict personal hygiene can help to prevent their spread. This includes avoidance of shared personal items, such as towels or razors.
Warts appear as small skin growths, flat or slightly raised, on the surface of the skin. They can vary in coloration. Usually warts can be diagnosed by a simple medical examination, but occasionally a biopsy may be necessary to distinguish them from particular kinds of skin cancer. Different types of warts appear on different parts of the body and vary in appearance. Some of the most common varieties of warts are:
- Common warts, which usually appear on the fingers or toes
- Flat warts, common on face, arms or legs
- Plantar warts, which grow on the soles of the feet
- Filiform warts, which grow on the face or neck
- Periungual warts, which grow around or under toenails and fingernails
While most varieties of warts are benign, they may be itchy, painful or embarrassing. Most can be treated through the application of medications like salicylic acid or cantharidin or through cryotherapy, a process of freezing with liquid nitrogen. In especially resistant instances, warts may require laser surgery or surgical excision with a scalpel. In most cases, treatment is permanent and warts do not return.