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What is THAT!? Part 2 – Warts

This is the second blog in our series What is THAT!?

Do warts come from toads? Are warts contagious? Do over the counter remedies work for warts? Can warts be dangerous?  Fryer Dermatology answers your questions about warts.

Warts

What does a wart look like? They are mostly skin colored, whitish, white with black spots, bumpy, or may look like something else; there are many ways that they appear.  All warts are a result of a virus – the HPV viruses to be specific - but there are different strains of this virus.  Most often, warts appear on hands and feet but really can occur anywhere on your body. Warts like the protein layer of your skin which is thicker on your hands and feet, that is why we commonly see them there. While warts seem very simple, they actually are not and present a challenge to treat.

What you see is a growth, but you should think infection, inside and under the growth. Since we don’t have a medicine that kills the virus we have to treat them indirectly, by removing or destroying what we see on the surface. We do this for two reasons:  to cut it off and also hoping for an immune response – that your body will do its job and your immune system will attack and kill the virus from the inside.  Your body can build up immunity over time.  Often more than one treatment or more than one type of treatment is needed.  Freezing, burning, cutting, and topical creams that are designed as a homing signal for your immune system to draw white blood cells can be used by themselves or in conjunction with one other. There are over the counter treatments like liquids with salicylic acid which can be effective again on their own or in conjunction with what is done in the office.  At times your dermatologist may recommend using an over the counter remedy like that which can dissolve the wart layer by layer and also debulk it which in turn aids in other treatment.

Feet present an additional problem. When a wart is on the bottom or your foot, typical treatments may cause more of a problem than the actual wart. Most of us cannot stay off of our feet and the area of treatment could be uncomfortable or become more irritated then the original wart itself. Many of us have heard the term Plantar Wart and while it sounds like a type of wart it really just means a wart that exists on the bottom of the foot or the Plantar surface. Less aggressive therapies may present the best options and that decision should be made between you and your dermatologist.

We always try to treat within what makes sense for the patient.  In and of themselves warts are not generally dangerous. When are warts more concerning? Genital warts present a special case and may lead to additional concerns.  Also warts on people with compromised immune systems present a challenge. There are warts that can look like cancer and a skin cancer that looks like a wart but your dermatologist can make that determination.

Warts are contagious – they are after all viruses. But there is a certain amount that has to do with susceptibility and we are not all susceptible to the same things.  People with warts do not need to isolate themselves but you can spread them back to yourself if you pick at them or shave over them.  So take sensible precautions, such as using shower shoes at the gym, or put a towel down where you step out. Use reasonable precautions but do not be obsessive about it.

The next time you see something on your skin and wonder “what is that” contact our office and make an appointment to see one of our dermatologists or physician assistant. We can not only tell you what it is but also guide you through treatment.  Check back to our blog for more editions of “What is That!?”.

Fryer Dermatology wants to help you understand what you may be seeing on your skin, what you have been told by or have read about.  Remember, these blogs are not meant for self-diagnosis rather it is for informational purposes.  If you see a change on your skin, please contact us so that we can examine the area and give you a proper diagnosis.  

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