Warts are small lumps that often develop on the skin of the hands and feet. Warts vary in appearance and may develop singly or in clusters. Some are more likely to affect particular areas of the body. For example, verucas are warts that usually develop on the soles of the feet. Warts are non-cancerous, but can resemble certain cancers. Most people will have warts at some point in their life. They tend to affect children and teenagers more than adults.
What causes warts?
Warts are caused by an infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus causes an excess amount of keratin, a hard protein, to develop in the top skin layer (epidermis). The extra keratin produces the rough, hard texture of a wart.
When should I see a doctor?
- you have warts on your face or another sensitive part of your body (e.g. genitals, mouth, nostrils)
- you notice bleeding or signs of infection, such as pus or scabbing, around a wart
- the wart is painful
- the colour of the wart changes
- you have warts and diabetes or an immune deficiency, such as HIV/AIDS
Most warts are harmless and clear up without treatment.
The length of time it takes a wart to disappear will vary from person to person. It may take up to two years for the viral infection to leave your system and for the wart to disappear.
You might decide to treat your wart if it is painful, or in an area that is causing discomfort or embarrassment.
Common methods of treatment include:
- salicylic acid
- cryotherapy (freezing the skin cells)
- duct tape
- chemical treatments