Warts (HPV Infection)

What are warts?

Warts are small growths caused by a viral infection with human papilloma virus (HPV). There are more than 100 varieties of HPV that are responsible for warts. Children are commonly affected with warts and usually the warts appear between 12 and 16 years. About 30% of the warts disappear spontaneously but after complete disappearance there may be a chance of reappearance of the warts.

There are at least 10 varieties of warts depending upon the site of involvement and most of the warts are not harmful and rarely undergoes a malignant change. In many cases, warts may disappear without any intervention but drugs, surgical removal or different treatments like laser therapy, liquid nitrogen or cryotherapy may also be helpful.

Warts Symptoms

Warts are outgrowths that most commonly arise from the surface of the skin, although some types may be rooted deeper in the body. Warts can also grow within the cavities of the body. In most instances there are no other symptoms present apart from the growth.  Sometimes these warts may be painful (mild pain), itchy and even bleed.

Types of Warts

The appearance of warts usually depends upon the location. Commonly occurring warts include :

  • Common warts also known as verrucae vulgaris usually develop on the hand especially adjacent to the nails although any part of the body may be affected. These warts look like gray to flesh-colored, raised solid lesions with rough horn like projections covering its surface.
  • Plantar warts also known as verrucae plantaris tend to appear on the plantar surface or on the sole of the feet. Usually areas under high pressure areas like below the heel are affected with this type of warts. The unique feature of this type wart is that it tend to grow inside the skin and not just on the surface like other varieties of warts.
  • Flat warts are usually seen on the face or on the back of the hands. Shaving often leads to spread of flat warts on the face.
  • Genital warts appear on the genitalia and these warts are at an increased risk of turning into a malignant lesion.
  • Mosaic warts usually resemble the plantar warts and appear as tightly grouped plantar warts.
  • Verrucous carcinoma is the rare form of squamous cell cancer that can affect non-genital warts.

Causes of Warts

Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (DNA virus) infection and different types of HPV leads to different types of warts. Common non-genital warts are caused by HPV 1, 3, 26, 29 and 57 whereas genital warts are commonly caused by HPV 16, 18, 58, 33 and 45. Infection by HPV 16 and 18 is known to increase the cancer risk in the cervix, vaginal, penile and some varieties of oropharyngeal cancer.

The virus enters the body through a cut surface either directly from an infected person or by sharing personal items with an infected person. Viruses shed by the infected person usually remain alive in warm and moist environments like in a locker room.

Warts Treatment

HPV vaccines are effective in preventing warts. In many cases warts usually disappear on its own. Warts can be removed by :

  • Adhesive plastic tape.
  • Salicylic acid therapy.
  • Cryotherapy (freezing)
  • Laser therapy.
  • Surgical removal.
  • Antivirals like imiquimod and cidofovir.

Posted by in Infections and Infestations

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