What warts are and when it needs medical attention

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Warts are raised bumps on your skin caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts have plagued humans for thousands of years. Although warts are generally not dangerous, they are ugly, potentially embarrassing, contagious, and they can be painful. It is interesting to note that there are more than 100 types of HPV;the virus that causes warts. Almost all types of HPV cause relatively harmless warts that appear on your hands or feet. 

Genital warts are soft growths that occur on the genitals. It is a sexually transmitted infection. It is caused by HPV 6 or HPV II. Genital warts can eventually lead to cervical cancer, a potentially fatal disease if not treated on time. 

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Types of Warts

There are five major types of warts. Each type appears on a different part of the body and has a distinct appearance.

Common Warts: usually grow on your fingers and toes but can appear elsewhere. They have a rough, grainy appearance and a rounded top. Common warts are grayer than the surrounding skin.

Plantar Warts: grow on the soles of the feet. Unlike other warts, plantar warts grow into your skin, not out of it. You can tell if you have a plantar wart if you notice what appears to be a small hole in the bottom of your foot that is surrounded by hardened skin. Plantar warts can make walking uncomfortable.

Flat Warts: usually grow on the face, thighs, or arms. They are small and not immediately noticeable. Flat warts have a flat top, as if they have been scraped. They can be pink, brownish, or slightly yellow.

Filiform Warts: grow around your mouth or nose and sometimes on your neck or under your chin. They are small and shaped like a tiny flap or tag of skin. Filiform warts are the same color as your skin.

Periungual Warts:  grow under and around the toenails and fingernails. They can be painful and affect nail growth.

When to seek medical help?

Warts on your face or another sensitive part of your body (e.g., genitals, mouth, nostrils)

 bleeding or signs of infection, such as pus or scabbing, around a wart

Painful warts and a change in the  color of the war

Diabetes  or an immune deficiency, such as HIV/AIDS

Treatment Options at Home

Although warts usually go away on their own, they are ugly and uncomfortable, so you may want to try treating them at home. Many warts respond well to treatments available at the drugstore. However,  you can spread warts to other parts of your body, and they are contagious to others. If a treatment requires that you rub the wart with a fingernail file or a pumice stone, do not use that utensil on any other part of your body, and do not allow anyone else to use it. Do not try to treat warts on your feet if you have diabetes. Diabetes can cause loss of sensation in your feet, so you can easily injure yourself without realizing it. Do not try to remove warts on your face or another sensitive part (such as genitals, mouth, or nostrils) of your body with at-home treatments.

Freezing Treatments: these treatments spray concentrated cold air (usually liquid nitrogen) onto your wart. This kills the skin and allows you to scrape away the surface of the wart. These treatments are a good choice if you want to try to remove a wart quickly, but they are not strong enough to remove all warts.

Treatments and Patches Containing Salicylic Acid: you must use these products every day, often for a few weeks. They will work best if you soak the wart in water for about 15 minutes before you apply the treatment.

Duct Tape: this involves covering the wart with a small piece of duct tape for several days, then soaking the wart, and, finally, rubbing the wart to remove the dead skin. This approach can take several rounds of treatments to work.

Professional treatment options

If your wart does not respond well to at-home treatments, your doctor may be able to help. Remember, always see your doctor if you have diabetes and have warts on your feet.

Liquid Nitrogen: the doctor may freeze your wart with liquid nitrogen. This can be a bit painful but usually works well. More than one treatment may be required. Freezing causes a blister to form under and around your wart. This lifts the wart away from the skin within about a week.

Surgery: is usually only considered if a wart has not responded to other treatments. Your doctor can cut away your wart with a surgical knife or burn it with electricity. You’ll need to receive a shot of anesthetic first, and these shots can be painful. Surgery may also cause scarring.


There are ways to prevent warts and keep them from spreading to other parts of your body if you already have one. Follow these simple guidelines:

Wash your hands regularly, especially if you have been in contact with someone with warts.

Don’t pick at your warts.

Cover warts with a bandage.

Keep your hands and feet dry.

Wear shower shoes (flip-flops) when in a locker room or communal bathing facility.


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