Warts are medically benign, but aesthetically unappealing, growths on your skin that can resemble little heads of cauliflower or manifest as raised patches dotted with black “seeds.” All warts are caused by one of more than 100 types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Once you’re infected with HPV, you have it for life, but only about 1% of the population develops nongenital warts, according to the National Institutes of Health.
When you have warts on your hands, feet, or face, the expert dermatologists at Specialists in Dermatology, located in Houston and The Woodlands, Texas, have safe, fast, effective ways to remove them. They also take time to diagnose your warts and be sure that you don’t have another condition — such as molluscum contagiosum or even skin cancer— that looks similar to warts. If you have warts on your genital area, your dermatologist recommends you to a gynecologist if you’re a woman or a urologist if you’re a man.
Why you get warts
When you first find out that warts are caused by HPV, you might wonder how you got them, or how your child got them. Warts are highly contagious. If you have cuts on your feet, for instance, you could pick up the HPV that causes warts by walking barefoot in a public space or even standing on a bathmat that’s been used by someone who has warts.
You’re more likely to get warts if you’re immunocompromised. Certain occupations in which you have to handle raw meat increase your risk for warts.
If you pick at or scratch a wart on your own body, you can even transfer the HPV to another body part and develop warts there, too. You’re also more likely to develop warts on areas of your body where you tend to get cuts or injuries. For instance, a man might develop warts on his face from shaving his beard, a woman could get warts on her legs from shaving, and children develop warts in areas where they get cuts and scrapes, such as skinned knees.
How to remove warts
Warts tend to resolve on their own without treatment, but the process could take weeks to months. Using over-the-counter preparations that contain salicylic acid may accelerate clearing, but not by a lot.
If your warts are on your face, look atypical, or appear in clusters, call us for an evaluation. We may recommend a biopsy if the wart looks suspicious for skin cancer. In most cases, however, your wart is easily diagnosed and removed with therapies such as:
- Cryotherapy — freezes off the wart with several treatments
- Cantharidin — hardens wart so your doctor can chip it off a few days later
- Electrosurgery and curettage — burning the wart and scraping off with a special instrument
- Excision — cutting out the wart
- Laser surgery — heat-based treatment
- Chemical peels — prescription-strength at-home treatment
Your doctor chooses the type of therapy based on the type of wart you have.
How to prevent more warts
Once you’ve gotten warts, you’ll probably develop them again. Strengthening your immune system by eating whole foods and limiting sugar can help you avoid another outbreak. You can also limit the spread of warts you currently have by adopting the following habits:
- Keep your warts dry
- Don’t pick at your warts
- Don’t touch your face after touching warts
Even if you already have warts, you could pick up a new strain of HPV that causes the same or different kind of wart. You can avoid getting more warts by:
- Never sharing towels, bath mats, or socks
- Wearing shower slippers in public pools, showers, gyms, and the beach
- Never touching someone else’s warts
To remove your warts and enjoy clear skin again, contact us by phone or make an appointment online.