Warts are skin growths that develop due to a viral infection (human papillomavirus – HPV) in the top layer of the skin. These growths are non-cancerous, are usually skin-colored, and feel rough to the touch. There are many types of warts including common, which grow on the hands, fingers, and around the nail areas; plantar, which usually grow on the bottoms of feet and can be painful; and flat, which tend to grow on the face, are smaller than other warts and tend to grow in large numbers of twenty to one hundred at a time.
Warts are passed from person to person, and contact does not have to be direct. As with any type of virus, some people are more prone to infection than others. These growths tend to occur more frequently on skin that has been damaged in some way, such as if a hangnail is plucked or a small cut is present. Warts can disappear spontaneously without treatment, however, if the growth is painful, bothersome, or appears to be multiplying, it should be removed.
There is a multitude of treatments available for the removal of warts. Common warts can be removed by treating them with salicylic acid that can be applied at home. However, freezing (also known as cryotherapy) has proven to be more effective. Cryotherapy is minimally painful and scarring is uncommon.
Other treatments include electrosurgery, which burns the growth off of the skin, and cantharidin, which causes a blister to form. Topical creams that alter the local immune system, such as Aldara and Efudex, have also been used with some success.
A newer treatment offered at the Knight Dermatology Institute is Pulse Dye laser therapy, with or without aminolevulinic acid (ALA). Using a novel approach, this laser targets increased blood vessels in warts. Eliminating these vessels starves the wart, thereby causing viral cell death. This treatment is reserved for recalcitrant warts that have not responded to traditional therapies.
Finally, our CO2 laser can be used to vaporize the most resistant of warts.