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If you're a nature lover and find warts on your hand, you don't have to stop picking up frogs or toads. Actually, you have a virus that is pretty harmless, except for your warts being unsightly.
Warts are small, usually painless growths on your skin, caused by a type of virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). Even though they're generally harmless, they can be disfiguring and embarrassing, and occasionally they itch or hurt, particularly on your feet.
The typical wart is a raised or oval growth on your skin. It has a rough surface. Warts may look light, dark, or black. Most adults are familiar with the look of a typical wart and have little trouble recognizing one. Unusual warts in children, however, may be more difficult for parents to notice.
The different types of warts include: Common warts, which usually appear on your hands. Flat warts, which are generally found on your face and forehead. They are most common in children. Genital warts. Plantar warts, found on the soles of your feet. And, Subungual and periungual warts, which appear under and around your fingernails or toenails
Your doctor will generally diagnose your warts simply by their location and appearance. Even so, your doctor may want to cut into a wart to confirm that it is not a corn, callus, or skin cancer. This is called a biopsy.
Over-the-counter medications can often remove warts. You'll need to apply them to the wart every day for several weeks. It helps to file the wart down when it's damp (for example, after a bath or shower) before applying these medicines. Do NOT treat warts on your face or genitals yourself. See your doctor instead.
You can treat pain and pressure from plantar warts with special cushions you can find at a drug store. If your warts keep coming back, or don't go away, your doctor may use stronger prescription medicines, like podophylin or salicylic acid. Some warts may need to be surgically removed or frozen. Some warts will disappear without treatment, but it may take a couple of years.
Treated or not, warts that go away often reappear, and all warts can spread from one part of your own body to another. They can be contagious, but it's uncommon to spread them to another person. Just don't remove a wart yourself by burning, cutting, or tearing at it. Call your doctor, and get the right treatment.
- Last reviewed on 10/25/2011
- Alan Greene, MD, Author and Practicing Pediatrician; also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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