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How Do You Get Warts

Warts are basically superficial viral skin infections. The virus is the human papilloma virus. A number of subtypes of human papilloma virus exist which are responsible for the variety of warts which exist . Some subtypes tend to involve the mucous membranes or cause the genital warts. Other subtypes cause the “plantar” warts found on the skin of the palms and soles. Still others cause the “common warts” found most commonly on the backside of the hands, feet, face, elbows, and knees.

Because the infection is located so superficially in the outer layers of the skin, the immune system gets little opportunity to come in contact with the virus. Over years, an immunity is built with the result that “plantar” and “common” warts are seen more often in children than adults.

The warts are spread mostly from skin to skin contact (one person to another, or from one area on one person to another area on the same person). However, while less often the case, it is possible for the virus to spread by an object which has been recently been in contact with a wart.

Wart Treatment

A variety of options are available with regards to treatment.

  • No treatment: This is an option if there is no discomfort with the wart. Usually plantar warts cause some discomfort, so that this is not an option if the wart is on the palms or soles. Most warts will eventually go away, however, a single wart may spread to involve other areas of skin in the meantime.
  • Salicylic acid: Available over-the-counter as a topically applied liquid or plaster (small impregnated disks). It works by slowly corroding the skin, so should only be applied to the wart itself. Works best on small warts.
  • Freezing: Some pediatricians and family practitioners’ offices have the ability to freeze off warts, but most often this is done by the dermatologist.
  • Dermatologist: The dermatologists have other options available.They have the expertise to use laser therapy, as well as other medications rarely used by primary care physicians including podophyllin, interferon, and 5-fluorouracil.