Find out tips for preventing and dealing with this common skin condition that causes small, rough growths on your fingers and hands.
Common warts are small, grainy skin growths that occur most often on your fingers or hands. Rough to the touch, common warts also often feature a pattern of tiny black dots, which are small, clotted blood vessels.
Common warts are caused by a virus and are transmitted by touch. It can take a wart as long as two to six months to develop after your skin has been exposed to the virus. Common warts are usually harmless and eventually disappear on their own. But many people choose to remove them because they find them bothersome or embarrassing.
Common warts usually occur on your fingers or hands and may be:
See your doctor for common warts if:
Common warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus is quite common and has more than 150 types, but only a few cause warts on your hands. Some strains of HPV are acquired through sexual contact. Most forms, however, are spread by casual skin contact or through shared objects, such as towels or washcloths. The virus usually spreads through breaks in your skin, such as a hangnail or a scrape. Biting your nails also can cause warts to spread on your fingertips and around your nails.
Each person's immune system responds to the HPV virus differently, so not everyone who comes in contact with HPV develops warts.
People at higher risk of developing common warts include:
To reduce your risk of common warts:
In most cases, your doctor can diagnose a common wart with one or more of these techniques:
Most common warts go away without treatment, though it may take a year or two and new ones may develop nearby. Some people choose to have their warts treated by a doctor because home treatment isn't working and the warts are bothersome, spreading or a cosmetic concern.
The goals of treatment are to destroy the wart, stimulate an immune system response to fight the virus, or both. Treatment may take weeks or months. Even with treatment, warts tend to recur or spread. Doctors generally start with the least painful methods, especially when treating young children.
Your doctor may suggest one of the following approaches, based on the location of your warts, your symptoms and your preferences. These methods are sometimes used in combination with home treatments, such as salicylic acid.
Freezing (cryotherapy). Freezing therapy done at a doctor's office involves applying liquid nitrogen to your wart. Freezing works by causing a blister to form under and around your wart. Then, the dead tissue sloughs off within a week or so. This method may also stimulate your immune system to fight viral warts. You'll likely need repeat treatments.
Side effects of cryotherapy include pain, blistering and discolored skin in the treated area. Because this technique can be painful, it is usually not used to treat the warts of young children.
Home treatment is often effective in removing common warts. Unless you have an impaired immune system or diabetes, try these methods:
Peeling medicine (salicylic acid). Nonprescription wart removal products such as salicylic acid are available as a patch, ointment, pad and liquid. For common warts, look for a 17 percent salicylic acid solution. These products (Compound W, Dr. Scholl's Clear Away Wart Remover, others) are usually used daily, often for a few weeks. For best results, soak your wart in warm water for a few minutes before applying the product. File away any dead skin with a disposable emery board or a pumice stone between treatments.
If your skin becomes too irritated, decrease how often you use this method to treat your wart. If you're pregnant, talk with your doctor before using an acid solution.
Duct tape. Cover the wart with silver duct tape for six days. Then soak it in water and gently remove dead tissue with a pumice stone or disposable emery board. Leave the wart exposed for about 12 hours, and then repeat the process until the wart is gone.
Study results have been mixed on the effectiveness of duct tape in removing warts, either alone or with other therapies.
You'll likely start by seeing your primary care doctor. But you may be referred to a specialist in disorders of the skin (dermatologist). The following tips can help you prepare for your appointment.
Bring a list of all medications you take regularly — including over-the-counter (nonprescription) medications and dietary supplements — and the daily dosage of each.
You may also want to list questions for your doctor, such as:
Your doctor may also have some questions for you, such as:
December 22nd, 2020