What causes warts?
Warts are a type of infection caused by viruses in the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. Warts can grow on all parts of your body. Some people are more naturally resistant to the HPV viruses and don't seem to get warts as easily as other people.
Can warts be passed from one person to another person?
Yes. Warts on the skin may be passed to another person when that person touches the warts. It is also possible to get warts from using towels or other objects that were used by a person who has warts.
Warts on the genitals can be passed to another person during sexual intercourse. It is important not to have unprotected sex if you or your partner has warts on the genital area. In women, warts can grow on the cervix (inside the vagina), and a woman may not know she has them. She may pass
the infection to her sexual partner without even knowing it.
Will warts go away on their own?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Often warts disappear on their own, although it may take many months, or even years, for the warts to go away. Some warts won't go away on their own. It is not known why some warts disappear and others don't.
Do warts need to be treated?
Generally, yes. Warts are often bothersome. They can bleed and cause pain when they're bumped. They also can cause embarrassment, for example, if they grow on your face. Treatment may also decrease the chance that the warts will be spread to other areas of your body or to other people.
How are warts on the skin removed?
First of all, it's important to know that warts on the skin (such as on the fingers, feet and knees) and warts on the genitals are removed in different ways. Don't try any home remedies or over-the-counter drugs to remove warts on the genital area. You could damage your genital area by putting certain chemicals on it. You also shouldn't treat warts on your face without talking to your doctor first. The following are some ways to remove warts from the skin:
- Applying salicylic acid — For warts on places such as the hands, feet or knees, one treatment method is to put salicylic acid (one brand name: Compound W) on the warts. To get good results, you must apply the acid every day for many weeks. After you take a bath or shower, pat your skin dry lightly with a towel. Then put salicylic acid on your warts. The acid sinks in deeper and works better when it is applied to damp skin. Before you take a shower or a bath the next day, use an emery board or pumice stone to file away the dead surface of the warts.
- Applying cantharidin — Dr. Badia may use cantharidin on your warts. With this treatment, the doctor "paints" the chemical onto the wart. Most people don't feel any pain when the chemical is applied to the wart. You'll experience some pain and blistering of the wart in about 3 to 8 hours.
After treatment with cantharidin, a bandage is put over the wart. The bandage can be removed after 24 hours. When mixtures of cantharidin and other chemicals are used, the bandage is removed after 2 hours. When you see your doctor again, he or she will remove the dead skin of the wart. If the wart isn't gone after one treatment, Dr. Badia may give you another treatment.
- Applying liquid nitrogen — We may use liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart. This treatment is called cryotherapy. Applying liquid nitrogen to the wart causes a little discomfort. To completely remove a wart, liquid nitrogen treatments may be needed every 1 to 3 weeks for a total of 2 to 4 times. If no improvement is noted, your doctor may recommend another type of treatment.
- Other treatments for warts on the skin — Other ways that your doctor can remove warts on the skin include burning the wart, and removing the wart with a laser. These treatments are stronger, but they may leave a scar. Ask us about the risks and benefits of these treatments before you decide what kind of treatment to have for your warts.
How are warts in the genital area treated?
As mentioned previously, warts on the genital area aren't treated exactly like warts on other parts of the skin. The following are some ways to treat warts on the genitals:
Applying liquid nitrogen — Warts on the genitals may be frozen with liquid
nitrogen (cryotherapy). With liquid nitrogen treatment, the doctor applies the liquid nitrogen at a number of different office visits until the warts are completely gone.
- Laser surgery — For large warts in the genital area or resistant warts, laser surgery may be needed for complete removal.
Do warts ever come back?
Most of the time, treatment of warts is successful and the warts are gone for good. Your body's immune system can usually get rid of any tiny bits of wart that may be left after a wart has been
treated. If warts come back, though, see Dr. Badia to talk about other ways to treat them.