What are Warts?
Warts are small, round, and hard bumps on the skin that mostly appear on the hands, fingers, knees, toes and feet. They are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and are spread by touching the wart, usually through broken skin. There are several types of warts, including common warts, flat warts and plantar warts.
Common warts often grow on the hands, fingers, around the nails, and knees. They look like small bumps that are rough on top.
Flat warts grow on the face, back of hands, and lower legs. They are skin-coloured or light brown, smooth, flat, or slightly elevated, and may appear in groups.
Plantar warts grow under the feet, often on pressure points like the heel or sole of the foot. They are often flat, have small black spots and are covered with a tough top layer. They are painful upon pressure.
Who can get a wart?
Anyone can get a wart! An estimated one out of ten people has a wart. You can also be infected with the virus, through direct contact with a person or a contaminated surface, but not have any warts yourself. Swimming pools and locker rooms are places where it’s easy to spread the virus that leads to warts. You can get warts more than once in your life, as treating a wart doesn't always make the virus go away.
Children and adolescents get warts most often. People with weakened immune systems are also at an increased risk of getting warts.
How to prevent warts
Here are a few tips to avoid getting or spreading warts:
- Avoid walking barefoot in public places. Wear flip flops in locker rooms, particularly in the shower and around the swimming pool.
- Protect small skin cuts with an adhesive bandage.
- Wash your hands after touching a wart.
- Keep the wart site dry.
- Put a bandage on the wart.
- Avoid sharing your towels, shoes or clothes if you have warts.
Most warts disappear on their own without treatment within 6 to 24 months. However, many people look for ways to treat a wart if it causes pain, and to prevent spread to other parts of the body or to other people. You can treat warts with a number of over-the-counter (OTC) products at the pharmacy.
The products recommended most often to treat warts contain salicylic acid. These medications come in different forms: creams, gels, collodions (liquid bandages), discs and adhesive bandages. If you are not sure how to use a product correctly, your pharmacist can help you.
Watch out! People with an aspirin allergy, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or circulation problems should not take salicylic acid.
There are other treatment options available. One treatment is cryotherapy, which involves a doctor using liquid nitrogen to freeze off the wart. Others include bleomycin, formaldehyde, retinoids, immunotherapy, laser therapy, and cantharidin, etc.
Did you say “duct tape”?
A research study has demonstrated the effectiveness of duct tape to eliminate warts, although it’s not fully clear how it works. You generally apply duct tape for a maximum of two months. Ask your pharmacist if you are curious about this method.
You should consult a doctor if you haven’t seen any improvement after 2 weeks of treatment or if the wart is still there after 12 weeks of treatment. Always ask your pharmacist about the best treatment for you. The pharmacist may also be able to refer you to a nearby foot care specialist who they have collaboration with to ensure you are taken care of all around.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.