6 Things to Know About Warts

What is a wart exactly?

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There all different types of warts.

Oftentimes different types of HPV make different types of warts.

Warts can be bumps on your fingers, flat patches your feet. There are genital ulcers and anal ulcers. They are associated with HPV - Human Papillomavirus. Different types of HPV, each labeled with a different number, are associated with warts on different parts of the body.

Other different types of HPV can lead to cancer - cervical, anal, penile, throat (called oropharyngeal cancer), and in rarer cases, squamous cell skin cancers.

However, warts are rarely involved in this. Usually, ​warts involve a totally different type of HPV and are benign.

How do you get a wart?

HPV virus spreads usually from contact with skin infected with the virus. It can also possibly be spread by shared items (fomites) like towels. The virus can then quietly sneak in through broken skin on your feet or hands.

You can infect yourself in another part of your body by touching a wart or area of skin containing HPV.

How does a ​wart start?

The virus invades our top layer of skin. This top layer then starts growing and growing. This results in what we call a wart, but it can take a long time before it's visible.

Common warts are usually found on your hands.

Plantar warts which are flat are often found on your feet.

Who is at risk?

Someone who has an impaired immune system is at risk. This might be someone who has an organ transplant or HIV. They don't 'fight' off the HPV viral infection as well.

Kids and younger adults often have more warts. Those with eczema can be at risk too.

Others who are at risk are those who are exposed more. This might be people who use a public gym or pool, especially if they walk around barefoot in the changing room or showers or share things like towels.

What can you do about them?

First, you should ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

Your wart might not be a wart and may need treatment. It could even be skin cancer mistaken for a wart. If you're having pain, an infection, difficulty walking on a wart, or it just keeps growing and growing, definitely see your doctor.

Warts also may go away on their own after months or years.

Many people use over-the-counter treatments. These can often be bought at pharmacies. They may apply salicylic acid treatments to their warts. They also may use cyrotherapy to freeze off the warts.

If the treatment isn't working - and it may take months, your doctor could have other treatments to provide. 

Talk to your doctor about treatments for genital or anal warts. Don't try to freeze these off or treat them on your own.

What's the story on Genital or Anal warts?

These can be spread by vaginal, anal, or sometimes oral sex with someone who has the virus. The virus can commonly be found in a person's anogenital region, but many don't know it. The virus  can be passed even if the person carrying the virus has no symptoms.

Genital warts are usually caused by HPV 6 and 11. These are included in HPV vaccines. These strains usually don't cause problems on their own, except for causing warts. However, sometimes 16,18,31, 33, and 35 can be found in visible genital warts; they can co-infect with 6 or 11, and can be associated with possibly cancerous lesions, especially in those who have HIV.

Talk to your doctor about removing genital warts. Some people can have a small procedure in the office and some may need minor surgery.

How do I know if I have the virus?

There is no test to know your status. Being vaccinated - if your male or female - will help reduce your chance. Having regular follow up with a doctor is important. If you're female, having gynecologic or pap tests as needed will also help, especially for checking for signs of cervical cancer from other HPV types.