28 Apr 2010

Warts

2207 views 1 min to read

Warts are caused by viral infection, and may take many different forms. They are particularly common in childhood and the early teenage years.

Symptoms

  • Common warts are small raised bumps on the skin that may have either a rough or smooth surface, and are sometimes itchy.
  • They may occur in isolation or in groups, and may be up to 10 millimetres in diameter.
  • Warts are most prevalent on the hands, knees, face and feet.
  • Other forms of warts include plantar warts (hardened masses on the soles of the feet, which may be painful, and tend to have small black dots on them), filiform warts (warts on a long, thin stalk, which are most commonly seen on the face), and genital warts (sexually transmitted warts that affect the genitalia).

Causes

Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). More than 100 different types of this virus have been identified, and the characteristics of the wart are determined by the particular strain of virus involved.

Warts are contagious, and can be spread from one part of your body to another, especially at times when the skin has been broken (for example by scratching or otherwise injuring a wart). They can also be transmitted from person to person (for example via direct contact with someone else’s warts).

You’re more likely to contract warts if you spend a lot of time with your hands in water (e.g. washing dishes) or handling meat, if you swim in public pools, or if you are prone to sweating excessively from the hands or feet. Biting your nails also increases the likelihood of getting warts.

Once the virus enters your body, it may lie dormant for 1-12 months before warts appear, and in some cases even longer.

Children are more susceptible to warts and are most likely to be affected between the ages of 12 and 16 years. Patients with immuno-suppressive diseases are also at increased risk of contracting warts.

Natural therapies

  • Zinc helps maintain both healthy skin and healthy immune function. Taken in high doses, it may help to promote the healing of warts. Talk to your healthcare professional about whether high dose zinc therapy is suitable for your individual situation, as when taken at this dose, zinc may cause mild, transient side effects, and may also interfere with the action of other medicines.

Diet and lifestyle

  • About two-thirds of warts resolve within two years without any treatment, and leave no scar.
  • Since many warts eventually resolve themselves, you may not require any treatment unless the wart is large, cosmetically disfiguring, or spreading. However, if a wart has been present for longer than two years, it is advisable to see your doctor, who can suggest appropriate treatment options.
  • Warts are notoriously resistant to treatment. If other therapies are not working, you may also like to try:
    • Bathing the affected part of the body in hot water (45 degrees Celsius) for 30-45 minutes three times per week
    • Applying tea tree oil (but take care to avoid the eyes, mouth and genitals)
    • Hypnotherapy (which appears to be more effective for children than adults)

Important notes

  • If you suspect that you have genital warts, it is important that you see your doctor urgently.