Warts are a common skin infection. They are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus gains entry to the skin through tiny breaks in the skin and lives in the outermost layer of the skin. Growth of the virus produces a bump with the characteristic rough, granular appearance. They are usually slightly lighter or darker than the color of the skin and sometimes have black dots in them. The dots are small clotted blood vessels at the base of the wart. Most often, warts appear on the hands and feet, but the virus can occur on any part of the body, including the face. An HPV vaccine has been developed which works by preventing the most common type of human papillomaviruses that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. The vaccine is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 — before they become sexually active. Warts are not usually a major health concern. (The primary exception would be genital warts–see below). Eventually, they often will disappear on their own, although this can take years or even decades. Moreover, they can be painful when they occur on the hands and feet and can be embarrassing when they occur on visible parts of the body.
As stated above, warts result from exposure to HPV virus. Unfortunately, this is a very common virus to which we are all frequently exposed. The virus is found on many common surfaces, such as shower floors. It is also shed from the surface of warts, explaining the contagious nature of warts and their ability to spread. Like most viruses, different people have different susceptibility to warts. Some people are, in fact, relatively immune and do not get warts. Other people get them frequently and severely. It is also believed that many children and young adults develop immunity to warts, which is why they are not as common among adult populations.
The two most common kinds of warts are known as common warts and plantars warts. However, the HPV virus can also occur on the sexual organs and they are known as genital warts.
Although warts can be stubborn, annoying and persistent, many will disappear over time on their own or with simple over the counter medications. You should see your dermatologist if warts are spreading, appear on the genitals or if you have been unsuccessful at treating them.
Warts can be stubborn and hard to treat. At times, multiple treatments or more than one approach may be needed to treat them successfully. Moreover, when standard remedies fail, experienced dermatologists have other treatments that can be very effective for recalcitrant warts. These include cantharone, immunotherapy and others.