Warts are skin growths that appear on the fingers, near the fingernails, on the hands or genital area. These are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV stimulates quick growth of cells on the skin’s outer layer. There are more than 60 kinds of HPV, some of which tend to cause warts on the skin.
A wart may appear as a bump with a rough surface, or it may be flat and smooth. Tiny blood vessels (capillaries) grow into the core of the wart to supply it with blood. In both common and plantar warts, these capillaries may appear as dark dots (seeds) in the wart’s center.
- Common warts usually appear singly or in groups on the hands, although they may grow on any part of the body. They usually are rough, gray-brown, dome-shaped growths.
- Plantar warts can develop on any part of the foot. As the callus and wart get larger, walking can become painful, much like walking with a pebble in your shoe. When pressure from standing or walking pushes a plantar wart beneath the skin’s surface, a layer of thick, tough skin similar to a callus develops over it. Sometimes dark specks are visible beneath the surface of the wart.
- Flat warts are usually found on the face, arms, or legs. They are small (usually smaller than the eraser on the end of a pencil). There are usually several in one area. They have flat tops and can be pink, light brown, or light yellow. Flat warts are often spread by shaving.
- Filiform warts, a kind of flat wart, can grow around the mouth, nose, and beard area. The surface of this type of wart has many flesh-colored, finger-shaped growths.
- Periungual warts are found under and around the toenails and fingernails. They appear as rough, irregular bumps.
Warts cover the lines and creases in the skin-this is one way to tell a wart from other skin conditions, such as skin tags or moles.
Warts are usually diagnosed based only on their appearance.
More testing is done in rare cases., your doctor may take a sample of the growth and examine it (a skin biopsy) if the diagnosis of a skin condition is unclear or if you are at high risk for having skin cancer. A biopsy is usually done if a skin growth is darker than the skin surrounding it, appears as an irregular patch on the skin, bleeds, or is large and growing rapidly.
Nonprescription medicines include:
- Salicylic acid
Medicines that your doctor may use or prescribe for you include:
- Retinoid cream (Avita, Retin-A)
- Cantharidin (Cantharone, Cantharone Plus)
- Immunotherapy medicines. These medicines may include imiquimod, contact sensitizers, and interferon.
- Bleomycin injection.
What to think about
Other medicines used for warts include 5-fluorouracil, which is more often used on genital warts, and cimetidine. Cimetidine can be taken by mouth (orally) or as an injection.
As with any medicine, talk to your doctor before using a wart medicine if you are or may be pregnant. Some wart medicines may cause birth defects.