Skin Conditions Database
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Warts (verrucae) are small skin growths caused by any of 80 or more related human papillomaviruses. Warts can develop at any age but are most common in children and least common in older people. People may have one or two warts or hundreds. Because prolonged or repeated contact is necessary for the virus to spread, warts are most often spread from one area of the body to another rather than from one person to another. Sexual contact, however, is often sufficient to spread genital warts.
Most warts are harmless, although they may be quite bothersome. The exceptions are certain types of genital warts that sometimes cause cervical cancer in women. Some warts grow in clusters (mosaic warts); others appear as isolated, single growths. Warts are classified by their location and shape. Common warts (verrucae vulgaris), which almost everyone gets, are firm growths that usually have a rough surface. They are round or irregularly shaped; are gray, yellow, or brown; and are usually less than 1/2 inch across. Generally, they appear on areas that are frequently injured, such as the knees, face, fingers, and around the nails (periungual warts). Common warts may spread to surrounding skin.
Plantar warts develop on the sole of the foot, where they are usually flattened by the pressure of walking and are surrounded by thickened skin. They tend to be hard and flat, with a rough surface and well-defined boundaries. Warts may appear on the top of the foot or on the toes, where they are usually raised and fleshier. Warts are often gray or brown and have a small black center. Unlike corns and calluses, plantar warts tend to bleed from many tiny spots, like pinpoints, when a doctor shaves or cuts the surface away with a knife.
Filiform warts are long, narrow, small growths that usually appear on the eyelids, face, neck, or lips. Flat warts, which are more common in children and young adults, usually appear in groups as smooth yellow-brown, pink, or flesh-colored spots, most frequently on the face and tops of the hands. The beard area in men and the legs in women are also common locations for flat warts, where they may be spread by shaving.
Genital warts (venereal warts, condylomata acuminata) occur on the penis, anus, vulva, vagina, and cervix. They are irregular, bumpy growths often with the texture of a small cauliflower. Symptoms: Warts are painless, except for plantar warts. Plantar warts can be very painful when pressure is placed on them in the course of weight bearing.
Many warts, particularly common warts, disappear on their own within a year or two. Because warts rarely leave a scar when they heal spontaneously, they do not need to be treated unless they cause pain or psychologic distress. Genital warts are more likely to persist and are more contagious, so doctors often remove them or treat them with drugs. All types of warts may recur after removal. Plantar warts are the most difficult to cure.
In general, warts can be removed with chemicals, cut off, frozen off, or burned off with a laser or electrical current. Typical chemicals used for removal include salicylic acid, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, trichloroacetic acid, cantharidin, and podophyllin. Flat warts are often treated with peeling agents such as retinoic or salicylic acid. 5-Fluorouracil (Trade Name: ADRUCIL) cream or solution may also be used. Some chemicals can be applied by the person, whereas others must be applied by a doctor. Most of these chemicals can burn normal skin, so when they are applied at home, it is essential to follow directions carefully. Chemicals usually require multiple applications over several weeks to months. The wart is scraped to remove dead tissue before each treatment. Freezing (cryotherapy) is safe and does not usually require any numbing of the area but may be too painful for children to tolerate.
Warts may be frozen with various commercial freezing probes or with liquid nitrogen sprayed on or applied with a cotton swab. Cryotherapy is often used for plantar warts and warts under the fingernails. Multiple treatments at monthly intervals are often required, especially for large warts. Burning and cutting warts off is effective but is more painful and usually leaves a scar. A pulsed dye laser is also effective but, like freezing, usually requires multiple treatments. Imiquimod (Trade Name: ALDARA) is a new cream for the treatment of genital warts, which some doctors are using on other kinds of warts as well.
Alternative Medical Treament:
Warts may need no treatment at all, since a large proportion of them (67% over a two-year period) disappear spontaneously. This is particularly so in the case of flat warts. However, a wart that appears unusual in any way should be checked by a physician, as a small proportion can become malignant. Generally, the main criterion for treatment of warts is a cosmetic one, if it is found to be embarrassing by the sufferer, or unpleasant to others.
Acupuncture: The aim with acupuncture will be to raise the general well-being of the patient, improve the functioning of the immune system, and free blockages of ""chi"" or life force. Warts and other health problems will be less likely to occur as general health and resistance are improved.
Aromatherapy: Since warts are caused by viral infections, the aim of an aromatherapy treatment would be to kill the virus with the application of an appropriate essential oil. There are many oils that have antiviral properties, so the therapist will also endeavor to choose oils that are appropriate for the patient. Onion and garlic oils both have powerful antiviral properties, but perhaps tea tree oil, which also possesses remarkable anti-viral properties, might be more acceptable as far as smell is concerned.
Colloidal silver: The use of colloidal silver against viruses of all kinds has proved very successful. It should be topically applied to the wart, but can be taken internally to promote functioning of the immune system, and thus prevent warts from occurring.
Herbal medicine: Herbal remedies for genital warts and other STDs have attracted considerable recent attention because of the epidemic spread of these diseases in developing countries where most people cannot afford allopathic treatments. One traditional herbal remedy from Colombia that is being studied is extracts of plants belonging to the Euphorbia family. These compounds have been used to treat ulcers, tumors, and warts for generations, and some of them appear to be effective in treating genital warts. Before applying any herbal cure to a wart, as much of the wart as possible should be removed, in order to give the cure a head start.
Naturopathy: Naturopathy, in common with many alternative therapies, works on the principle that given the right circumstances, such as pure air, pure water, and first class nutrition, the body will heal itself and become extremely resistant to illness. Naturopaths believe that such symptoms as warts are the result of toxins in the body, and an immune system that is not running efficiently. They may prescribe treatments such as colonic irrigation, alongside a program of healthy eating to raise the general level of health. A naturopath may suggest a paste made with vitamin C, applied to the wart daily for a period of a few weeks.
- Apple juice: Apply the juice of a sour apple. Action is due to the magnesium in the juice.
- Banana skin: First the wart should be rubbed with an abrader, and a fresh banana skin (immediately after opening) should be applied and left overnight.
- Cabbage: Apply fresh juice from a white cabbage.
- Chickweed: Apply the juice to the wart.
- Dandelion: The juice of the dandelion is a very old English cure for warts.
- Garlic: Rub a raw clove on the wart every night until it disappears.
- Green figs: The white milk from a green fig is excellent at removing warts.
- House leek: This is a plant commonly found in rock gardens. It has thick fleshy leaves and its juice is rich in supermalate of calcium, which will destroy warts.
- Pineapple: Cotton wool should be soaked in the fresh juice of a pineapple. The enzymes of the pineapple will dissolve the wart.
- Rubber plant: If the stem of a leaf from a rubber plant is broken, white liquid will ooze out. If this is applied to the wart over a period of two to three days, the wart should disappear.
Visualization: This method, also known as creative imagery, has skeptically been described as ""willing yourself well,"" but practically it has been found to be very effective for a range of conditions, both physical and emotional. The patient is required to sit in a relaxed state, breathing evenly, and visualize the self in the condition he or she would like to be. In this case, perhaps he or she visualizes the body overcoming the warts and absorbing them, leaving behind healthy skin. This method has been found particularly suitable for children, as it has no side effects and therapists claim it has a good success rate.
Folk remedies: There are many remedies for warts that have been handed down from generation to generation all over the world. The following remedies have excellent track records. Thread: a length of thread should be tied around the wart, and tightened every day until the wart drops off. Human saliva: the sufferer applies his or her saliva to the wart first thing every morning.
Allopathic treatment: Warts may be self-treated by a number of allopathic remedies, but care should be taken as they are fairly strong chemicals (usually salicylic acid). Those suffering from diabetes, heart disease or circulation problems, or any degree of peripheral neuropathy, should not attempt to treat themselves with any of these preparations, because of the risk of damage to tissue, and because of their increased susceptibility to infection. In addition, the face and mucous membranes may scar, so it may be preferable to seek professional advice.
A physician may use cautery (use of heat) or cryosurgery (use of extreme cold, usually in the form of liquid nitrogen) to remove warts. These are processes that require precision, and therefore are highly skilled procedures. Another drawback is that they can be painful. Increasingly, laser treatments are also being used to treat warts, whereby the laser beam vaporizes the wart tissue. Pulsed laser treatments appear to be particularly effective in treating warts in the anogenital region of children.
A newer allopathic medication that shows promise in the treatment of resistant viral facial warts is diphencyprone (DPC), a drug that was developed to treat a type of hair loss known as alopecia areata. DPC has shown effectiveness in removing facial warts that were resistant to both cryosurgery and other topical drugs. Allopathic methods for the treatment of warts are generally successful, but they carry more risk of scarring than natural methods. More than one alternative method may have to be tried before success is achieved, but they carry the added bonus of adding to the well-being of the patient, and not harming the body. Allopathic treatments involve the use of strong chemicals, which carry risks and are not compatible with body chemistry. Usually, warts either disappear spontaneously or are treated successfully with no scarring or lasting effects. However, occasionally, what appears to be a wart is the beginning of a type of cancer, so those that are resistant to treatment should be seen by a physician.
Recurrent genital warts are a serious personal and public health concern. Even though genital warts may be removed, the virus itself continues to live. Certain types of HPV can cause tissue changes in the cervix of women with recurrent infection that may lead to cervical cancer. The general recommendation for women who have a history of genital warts is to see their doctors every six months for Pap smears to monitor any changes that may occur.
To avoid foot warts, footwear should always be worn in public places and feet should be kept clean and dry. In general, warts should not be picked, to avoid cross infection, and any patch of damaged skin should be protected. Every effort should be made to keep the immune system in peak working condition. Genital warts can be prevented by using condoms and avoiding unprotected sexual contact. Barrier protection will not, however, prevent the spread of wart-causing HPV to such uncovered areas as the pubis and upper thighs. Although vaccines to prevent the spread of human papilloma virus are under investigation as of 2002, they will not be available for general use for at least several years.
Disclaimer: If you believe you are suffering from a skin disorder you should consult a professional licensed medical practitioner. No one working for or connected with Vashon Organics either claims or pretends to be a licensed health care practitioner. Sources for the information provided in this database are provided and any information received by you from this database should be considered a starting place for your research rather than a definitive diagnosis or professional recommendation of treatment.