Warts

Dry, flaky skin has affected most people as some point in their life. If the skin becomes irritated, it can thicken to protect itself by producing excess proteins called keratin. This thickening of the skin is known as hyperkeratosis.

Warts are a form of hyperkeratosis and affect over 10% of the population today.  These growths are caused by one of over 80 different viruses infecting the skin.  The viral lumps can be found anywhere on the body, and can come in all shapes and sizes.  The most common variety is found on the hands.  The plantar variety are found on the bottoms of the feet, and subungual and periungual growths present around or under the toenails and fingernails.  Finally, certain cysts may be found around and in the pubic area or on the inner thighs.  Although none of these lumps typically harmful to one’s health, they can prove to be very embarrassing and unsightly.

Warts can be removed in the doctor’s office by using a liquid nitrogen formula that freezes the warts, also known as cryosurgery.  A physician may often choose to biopsy the growth to rule out other conditions, such as calluses or corns.  A viral growth may appear a great deal lighter or darker then the skin around it.  They may also appear in groups on the legs, arms, or face, presenting a small smooth and flat surface.  Rough lumps may appear under a toenail or fingernail.  Lesions that are small, round and rough appearing on the soles of the feet may be somewhat painful if depressed, and may even lead to difficulty running or walking if left untreated.   All viral growths are usually much harder than the rest of the skin, as they contain excess keratin.

Children and teens are most susceptible to developing warts.  Because they are caused by a viral infection, due to the human papilloma virus (HPV), direct contact with either an infected surface or person can transmit the infection. Other causes of viral growths include scratching or biting an existing infected area, sucking on one’s fingers, biting of the fingernails and shaving. Damaged skin is much more susceptible to developing the virus.  Once the HPV virus is engaged, keratin is produced too quickly.  Keratin is a rigid protein in the top layer of your skin’s surface, called the epidermis, which produces the hard lesions.

Certain complications, although rare, do occasionally occur as a result of warts. Many warts can be a warning sign of a weak immune system. Self-confidence may be affected by the appearance of warts, and scarring is a possibility.  Contact your doctor if the growth bleeds, has a sudden change in appearance, continues to spread quickly, or are resistant to treatments.