Common questions on warts
Dr. Rajan T.D.
Are all growths on the face and neck, warts?
No. Warts are small tough growths on the surface of the skin caused by certain viruses. They enter the body through tiny cuts and bruises and multiply within the skin. As they multiply the cause heaping up of the skin which results in projections on the body. They could occur on any part of the body including the face and neck, though the hands, legs and fingers are the most commonly affected. Quite often small, soft elevations are seen on the face and neck in men and women. These are called skin tags and are not caused by the wart virus. They are also found in the armpits, chest, back and thighs.
Are warts contagious?
Since the causative agent of warts is a virus it is an infectious disease.
I have had a wart on my finger for several months and it has neither spread nor troubled me. Can’t I leave it alone?
You are fortunate that it has not spread to other areas for so long. However you must remember that there are no early signs of spread of warts. Thus it becomes difficult for anyone to know whether the adjoining flat skin is affected. In other words, only after the skin gets elevated with the wart do we know that the wart is spreading. Leaving a wart untreated makes it prone to spread. Once many warts appear the treatment becomes that much more difficult.
What are the modes of treating warts and similar tiny growths on the skin?
The simplest method is the application of certain specialised chemical solutions on the affected part. This is an effective but slow procedure as it involves applying the medication carefully just over the affected area every morning and evening for a few weeks. These agents gradually destroy the infected cells. Treatment with these solutions should be continued till the entire wart is cleared as advised by the doctor so as to prevent its recurrence.
Ordinary creams, ointments and corn caps do not help in removing warts.
Laser / Electrocautery or cryotherapy (by freezing) is the modern methods of wart removal.
Isn’t wart removal by Laser or Electrocautery a slow and painful procedure?
Of course, not. A tiny injection is given to make the affected area numb to make sure that the procedure is completed quickly and painlessly. A pen-like instrument is used which has a metal tip, where a tiny spark is produced to burn the wart. Since the wart is anaesthetised the patient does not experience any pain. The entire wart comes off in a few minutes and the tiny wound left behind heals within a few days. Unlike the medicated solutions, electrocautery removes the wart instantly. It also does away with the botheration of applying the medicine twice daily for several days.
Application of lime and some homemade pastes also remove warts. Is this effective and safe?
Application of these acid-like agents is described in ancient textbooks and they have been effective remedies prior to the development of newer medications and Electrocautery. If the homemade preparations are not applied carefully they could result in burns to the adjoining skin. On the delicate areas of the body e.g. face, these chemicals may produce ugly scars which look worse than the warts. Besides they are unsafe in children.