Warts are harmless skin growths caused by a virus. Warts can grow on any part of the body e.g. on the face, along the forearms or on the fingers. Warts have a rough surface on which tiny, dark dots can often be seen. On pressure areas like the palms or the soles, they appear flat. Warts on the sole (called plantar warts) grow inward from the pressure of standing and walking and are often painful.
Warts are common and can be a nuisance. They may bleed if injured. Common warts are not known to turn cancerous. Warts are contagious, and may spread from one part of the body to another or to other people. We do not know why some people get warts while others do not. There is no way to prevent coming into contact with the virus that causes warts.
Warts may disappear on their own and no treatment may be needed, especially in young children. This spontaneous healing is less common in older children and adults. Warts on the genitalia are usually sexually acquired.
There is no perfect treatment for warts. Treatment consists of destroying the outer layer of skin where the wart grows on. This can be done by surgery (including excision, electrocautery and carbon dioxide laser), cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen) or with topical applications like salicylic acid, 5 fluorouracil and imiquimod. The doctor will decide on the method of treatment depending on the location and size of the warts. Sometimes new warts can develop while existing ones are being destroyed. We will continue to treat until all warts are clear. In patients whose warts do not respond to the usual treatment, the doctor may offer various forms of immunotherapy (MMR, Gardasil, DCP).
No matter what treatment is used, warts occasionally fail to disappear. Warts may return weeks or even months after an apparent cure. There is no need to worry if a wart recurs; just consult your dermatologist for further therapy. The treatment may be repeated, or a different method may be used to get rid of the warts.
Liquid nitrogen is the most common treatment method used for warts at this centre. Your wart and the surrounding skin becomes extremely cold when the liquid nitrogen is applied during treatment. Occasionally this may result in the formation of a blister, which is normal. There may be temporary pain which can be eased with painkillers, if necessary.
There is no need to cover the treated areas if the blisters are intact. Should there be a painful blister, you may prick it with a sterile needle. A simple dressing may be necessary if the skin is broken.
There is no need to apply any medications other than those prescribed.
At least a week must lapse between treatments, even if a blister does not form.