Warts are a viral skin disease caused by the human papillomavirus. This infection manifests itself in benign skin lesions of various sizes.
What are warts?
- Common warts. Most often occur on the hands, face or other parts of the body. To the naked eye, they look like raised skin growths with a rough surface. As long as the warts are small, they do not cause symptoms unless patients complain of aesthetic discomfort. However, as warts grow, they become painful, sensitive to touch and may bleed. When warts appear on the sole of the foot, patients complain of pain when walking, standing, etc. If left untreated for a long time, a deposit starts to form around the wart itself.
- Flat warts. Most commonly found on the back of the hands or on the face. They are small, flat, light red or flesh-coloured nodules, with a smooth surface when brushed. Flat warts can be both single and multiple.
- Plantar warts. These warts are located on the soles of the feet, grow deep and are painful as they grow. They are often confused with pressure sores. Multiple warts on the soles of the feet are called mosaic warts.
- Seam warts. These usually appear on the face. Visually, they resemble a thin seamed growth.
- Hairy warts. Sometimes they are so numerous that they can look like cauliflower.
- Pointed condyloma, or genital warts. These are sexually transmitted warts. They are difficult to treat, require several treatments and are often prone to recurrence.
Laser wart removal
Removing warts is the only way to treat them. The most common procedure is laser wart removal. Laser wart removal can be carried out anywhere on the body, including pointed condylomas on the genitals. Laser wart treatment is a quick, well-tolerated procedure. Laser wart removal is one of the most progressive and advanced methods of wart removal, and is particularly commonly used due to its good efficacy results. Depending on the type of wart, different lasers can be used. The choice of laser and the experience of the doctor will determine the effectiveness of the wart removal procedure and the cosmetic appearance of the wart after healing, so it is best if the wart laser treatment is carried out by an experienced dermatologist.
Laser wart treatment is carried out under local anaesthesia and leaves a wound that takes between 2 and 4 weeks to heal, depending on the size of the wart removed. Depending on the size, number and localisation of the warts, laser wart removal takes on average about 10-30 minutes. After the procedure, a bandage is applied and the doctor writes a prescription for an ointment to be applied at home. Although the effectiveness of the laser wart removal procedure is very good, the doctor cannot promise a 100% result because it is not yet possible to remove the cause of viral warts. The laser is usually used to remove single warts on the legs, arms, face and other areas. After the laser wart removal procedure, the treated area should be kept clean, sterile and dry to avoid infection, so it is not advisable to play sports, go to swimming pools or saunas during the healing period.
What are the most common warts?
The most common problem (up to 70% of all cases) is troublesome warts, with the majority of patients being school-age children. It has been estimated that up to 20% of all schoolchildren have had warts at least once. Plantar warts are more common in adults (34% of cases), as opposed to flat warts, which are again more common in children (4% of all warts).
An experienced dermatologist can easily determine the type of wart during a consultation. However, in rare cases, especially if the wart is traumatic, it is difficult to diagnose it during the examination and the doctor may then perform a biopsy and histological examination of the lesion.
Can warts cause complications?
Warts usually do not cause complications, unless they increase in size, become painful to walk on and cause psychological discomfort for aesthetic reasons. In rare cases, when they are traumatised, they can spread to adjacent areas. In patients with a significant immune defect (e.g. immunodeficiencies of various origins), there is a theoretical likelihood of a simple wart swelling, although this does not occur in daily practice. This is in contrast to genital warts, which can also be caused by oncogenic types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Therefore, radical removal of the wart is recommended in all cases to avoid these complications.
Removal of warts
Although the scientific literature suggests that warts can disappear spontaneously within a few years in the presence of a good immune system, medical practice shows otherwise. The main problem with the treatment of warts is that there is currently no method or drug that removes the virus itself, so a doctor cannot guarantee a 100% cure. All treatment focuses on removing the wart itself, but does not prevent re-infection with HPV.
The main methods of wart removal:
- Cryodestruction with liquid nitrogen
- Surgical wart removal
It is best to have an experienced dermatologist perform wart removal, as incorrectly prescribed treatment may not only fail to help, but may also make the situation worse. Warts can only be treated by radical removal, which, as already mentioned, may involve surgical lasers, liquid nitrogen or special drugs.
Any of these methods of wart removal can be used in our centre. The treatment method is selected individually in each case.
Laser wart removal
The procedure is carried out under local anaesthesia, after the doctor has administered a painkiller. Depending on the size of the lesion, laser wart removal takes up to 15 minutes. After the procedure, a bandage is applied and a prescription of medication is given to apply to the wound while it heals. The main advantage of laser wart removal is that it only takes one treatment to make your troublesome wart disappear for good. It is also the most popular treatment method among patients and the one with the best reviews, as laser wart removal starts from:
- Hands and soles
Wart removal with nitrogen
This is an alternative to laser wart removal. It is also quite popular, but it usually requires several treatments, is quite painful, and the cryodestruction with liquid nitrogen results in a painful blister. Therefore, liquid nitrogen wart removal is recommended only for older children and adults. Cryodestruction is repeated every 2-3 weeks until the warts have finally disappeared. Usually 6 sessions of liquid nitrogen treatment are sufficient, but if the wart still persists, the patient should be treated with liquid nitrogen.
Removing warts with medicines
Destruction with acids such as salicylic acid, trichloroacetic acid, urea and other special medications is also one of the means of removing warts. Any pharmacy will have a fairly wide range of wart removers. Salicylic acid and urea soften the top layer of the wart and stimulate the local immune response, which leads to the disappearance of the wart. Patience is required when choosing a drug treatment for warts, as even when applied strictly according to the instructions, the effect becomes visible after several months. In addition, regular applications of the drug according to a specific regimen and compliance with certain skin care rules are required. This sometimes causes inconvenience for the patient, and the medication also has adverse reactions, such as skin irritation, redness, etc.
It is worth bearing in mind that once the wart has been removed, there is still a chance of infection, as it is a viral disease. Therefore, the treatment of warts is just as important as their prevention. So what can be done to prevent warts?
- Strengthen the immune system
- Treat other skin conditions (e.g. eczema, increased sweating, etc.) properly
- Treat comorbid internal diseases (e.g. HIV infection, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease)
- Wear protective gloves when handling meat, poultry, fish
- Do not go barefoot in swimming pools, saunas, sports clubs, use disinfectants
To prevent genital warts, it is recommended to:
- Use barrier protection (condoms) during sexual intercourse
- Vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection