Warts, Verruca, Verrugas, Tubera, Les Verrues, Verruche!
These are the many names for the pesky bumps that appear on our skin out of thin air with the little black dots or “seeds” coming out of them. Warts are not a fruit and they do not have seeds. In actuality, warts come from a virus. I commonly refer to them as: ”the cold virus of the skin.” Those little black dots that most people see are really the blood vessels being attacked by the wart virus. That is why if you pick warts or scratch them, they will bleed. I often advise patients to avoid picking at the warts to prevent the spread to other body parts… Remember it is a virus.
Warts are the third most common growth that I see and treat in our practice. The most frequent questions asked are: How did I get this? How do I get rid of them? How do I prevent them from growing back?
Like many viruses, the wart virus lives out in the world, unseen, on any object and we touch many objects throughout the day. Our skin is constantly exposed to the many varmints lurking out in our universe. It is not scientifically known how to prevent warts, but I have some theories that may help keep the bumps away.
Our skin is the largest organ of our bodies. The skin has many functions including: sensation, the processing of vitamin D, temperature regulation and protection. It is our bodies’ first line of defense against foreign invaders. When our skin gets cut, scratched, broken or if it is very dry, it can become more susceptible to any, germ, bacteria, virus or fungus that it comes in contact with. Keeping the skin well-hydrated with moisturizers and treating and cleansing any open wounds early, may help decrease the chances of secondary infections.
Elbows, knees, fingers, toes, hands and feet are the most common places to get warts… BUT they can occur anywhere. These are all body parts that get used every day. We bump our elbows and knees constantly and we use our feet to stand and walk and we don’t have a choice about using our hands daily!
If we keep our skin healthy, drink plenty of water, take vitamins and have a well- balanced diet…. (With lots of green veggies), maybe we can decrease the chances of getting attacked by the wart virus.
But what if you still get warts?
Don’t worry. There are many treatment options available; with new treatments emerging as we speak.
Historically, the most common and most direct way to treat warts is to “freeze” them with liquid nitrogen, a process called cryotherapy. Liquid nitrogen is greater than -300?C. So yes it is very cold, so cold that it can feel hot. This option can be a little uncomfortable and sometimes has to be repeated to achieve complete resolution and because warts are stubborn! Other treatment options are prescription topical creams and solutions that help peel down the layers of the wart. There are also over the counter treatment options that may or may not be effective. Oftentimes, they are not strong enough to get rid of the wart; especially, if it is a larger wart or one that has been on the skin for a while. Some smaller warts may respond to the over the counter treatments. There are also home remedies that have been tried including: apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, onions, and potatoes. I really do not know if these are effective treatment options but they will not hurt anything if applied to the warts.
Warts do not hurt your general health but most people seek treatment because they are not pretty to look at and sometimes they bleed and hurt depending on where they are located on the body.
So don’t worry if you get a wart or currently have a wart, they can be stubborn, but I am up to the challenge.
Just pack your patience and your happy place and we will conquer this virus together!
Written by: Kendra Salazar, MPAS, PA-C