Warts 'N All

Warts can appear on almost every part of the body and are the result of an infection with a virus. There are quite a number of wart viruses with each type preferring to grow on one region of the body. For example the virus which causes "papillomas" or plantar warts will prefer to grow only on the soles of our feet. Another wart virus prefers to grow mostly on fingers and hands, and also on knees!

The virus is passed from person to person by physical contact with a wart and is also spread from a wart on one area of skin to another area of skin on the same person. Warts aren't usually dangerous although one species of wart which prefers to grow on a woman's cervix is thought to be responsible at least in part for the development of cancer of the cervix. However warts don't look very attractive, they can become injured and inflamed or even infected with ordinary skin germs; they can then bleed or become tender. Plantar warts or papillomas can be very painful because they grow into the sole of the foot and can become quite large deep within the skin without much wart being visible. Having a papilloma can feel as if one is always walking on a small stone, purely due to the size of the wart.

Warts develop as a viral infection of locallised patches of skin and they have the cunning ability to avoid detection by our body's defense mechanisms or immune system. Many of the techniques which doctors use to destroy warts are thought to work mostly by exposing the wart virus to the immune system which then stimulates the body to mount an assault on all the virus particles thereby killing them along with the wart. For this reason we sometimes notice that by treating one or two warts out of a larger number all the warts can suddenly disappear including those NOT treated. However, even without any treatment most warts eventually disappear overnight, usually all at once.

What Can Be Done About Warts?

If nothing is done to get rid of warts they may continue to multiply and other people may become infected! However, eventually most warts just disappear even without treatment. Unfortunately this may take years to happen and in the meantime many unsightly warts may appear and they may have been spread to many people.

There are many options for treatment but it is important to understand that no particular treatment is definitely better than any other treatment. The best success rate for treatment seems to be no higher than 80% which means that one wart in five will survive everything we dish out to them! For this reason many people need to have several treatments in order to finally get rid or their warts and sometimes nothing works at all!

The simplest forms of treatment are wart paints or creams which are carefully applied to warts while avoiding application to the heatlhy surrounding skin. Sometimes this will only kill the outermost layers of wart tissue and to get to the "roots" one has to remove the dead layer of wart and reapply the wart paint or cream to the exposed surviving wart tissues. In fact several applications of wart paint or cream may be needed in order to get down to the bottom of the wart and kill it all. Unfortunately many people give up trying before all the wart tissue is killed and then of course the surviving wart tissue regenerates from below! Most doctors will recommend that patients try wart paints or creams before they try more serious stuff!

What Doctors Can Do To Remove Warts

Doctors commonly apply either dry ice or liquid nitrogen (it's much colder) to freeze and therefore kill the wart tissue. This treatment stings while it's being applied and then throbs and aches for some time afterward. A blister often forms under the dead wart tissue and when it dries up and the scab eventually comes off one can then see if there is any residual surviving wart tissue. This process may take 2-3 weeks after the initial treatment and if any wart remains it should be treated again before it regenerates to its original size.

Doctors may also burn the wart with a diathermy machine after first giving an injection of local anæsthetic under the wart so that the diathermy doesn't hurt. Alternatively, after giving the anæsthetic injection they may just scoop out the wart from its cavity in the skin using a sharpened spoon-like device called a curette. This is quite commonly done for papiloomas or plantar warts under the feet as they are orten the most resistant and biggest warts.

Rarely doctors may just decide to cut out the wart using the same techniques they use to cut out skin cancers. This is obviously a last resort and involves more time, effort and cost as well as theoretically more risk to patients.