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Warts are small growths on the skin caused by a virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV). Despite their unpopularity, warts are extremely common. It is estimated that approximately 25% of the population have a wart at any one time. Luckily, most warts are harmless. However, since they're caused by a virus, warts are very contagious.

Warts can grow anywhere on the skin. There are 6 clinically different types:

  • Common warts have a rather bumpy surface and appear most often on the hands and fingers (of children, in particular).
  • Flat or plane warts are small, smooth warts appearing in clusters on the back of the hands, face, or legs.
  • Plantar warts are those appearing on the soles of the feet.
  • Filiform warts form long, thin projections around the eyes, face, and neck.
  • Periungual warts (common in people who bite their nails) occur under and around the fingernails.
  • Genital (venereal) warts are those appearing on the genitalia.

Keep in mind that some warts can become cancerous, and some skin cancers can look like warts, so always get them checked by your doctor. Also remember, the sooner a wart is treated, the easier it will be to destroy - so don't procrastinate.

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While it is very easy to recognize the presence of warts, depending on the area of the body that is infected, the symptoms may vary. For instance, if left untreated, plantar warts can grow to a size of one inch or more. They can spread out and form clusters of warts that can become painful at times. They cause the most discomfort when they occur on parts of the foot where pressure occurs, such as the heel or ball of the foot. Some people say they feel as if they have a stone in their shoe all the time.

Genital warts are usually small flat bumps. They may also be thin and tall. They are mostly soft, and not scaly, like other kinds of warts. In women, genital warts usually appear within the vagina, on the cervix, and around the anus or within the rectum. In men, the warts usually appear on the tip of the penis, on the scrotum, or around the anus. Genital warts can also develop in the mouth of a person who has had oral sexual contact with an infected person.

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The most common types of warts include:

  • Common hand warts
  • Foot warts
  • Flat warts
  • Genital warts

Hand Warts

Common hand warts grow around the nails, on the fingers, and on the backs of hands. They appear most often where the skin is broken.

Foot Warts

Foot warts are also called plantar warts. Plantar warts usually occur on the ball of the foot, the heel and the bottom of the toes. The skin in these areas is subject to weight, pressure, and irritation and has a tendency to crack or break open, providing an opening for the virus. Foot warts usually do not stick up above the skin.

People of all age groups can get plantar warts. But they are most common among adolescents between the ages of twelve and sixteen. The virus can be picked up in locker rooms, swimming pools, or by walking barefooted on dirty surfaces. People with diabetes mellitus (see diabetes mellitus entry) are very likely to develop plantar warts. The warts develop in areas where sores did not heal properly.

Flat Warts

Flat warts are smaller and smoother than other kinds of warts and tend to grow in large numbers. Although they can appear anywhere on the body, flat warts appear most often on the legs of women and the faces of children and young adult males.

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Home Remedies

Papaya contains an enzyme that digests dead tissue. Make shallow cuts on the surface of an unripe papaya, collect the sap that runs out and let it coagulate. Mix the thickened sap with water, then apply morning and night.

Apply freshly crushed garlic directly to the wart and cover with a bandage. The caustic effect of the garlic will cause the wart to blister and fall off in as little as one week. Apply new garlic every day, avoiding contact with healthy surrounding skin. (Smearing the area around the wart with petroleum jelly can help.)

Apply a compress or cotton ball soaked in vinegar and tape it down on the wart with an elastic bandage for at least one or two hours daily.

If a piece of birch bark is available, dampen it with water and tape it over your wart with the inner side of the bark facing your skin. The bark contains salicylates, which are found in many over-the-counter wart treatments.

If you have suggestions or know of a proven home remedy add it here in the comment area.

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Herbal Remedies

Pull a dandelion from your yard, break the stem and squeeze some of its liquid onto your wart. Do this daily as needed. The sap is mildly irritating, so it stimulates your immune system to take care of the wart. Don’t use dandelions that have been treated with herbicides during the previous few years.

If you have an aloe vera plant on the windowsill, break off a leaf and squeeze a few drops of gel onto the wart. Repeat daily.

If you have suggestions or know of a proven herbal remedy add it here in the comment area.

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Wellness Program

Using condoms during sexual activity can prevent genital warts. Condoms do not offer protection against areas that are not covered, however, such as the upper thighs. Plantar warts may be prevented by practicing good foot care. Good foot care involves keeping feet clean and dry, changing socks daily, and taking note of growths on the skin or changes in skin appearance.

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