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What is a wart?

A wart is usually nothing to worry about. They are a pretty common skin condition caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), but they aren’t very nice to look at. They will often get better on their own without the need for any treatment but treating them can sometimes speed up the healing process.

Warts are small lumps on your skin, rough in texture, and dry to look at. Most often you’ll get them on your hands or feet and you might just have one on its own, or a few may develop together. If it’s on your foot, it’s known as a verruca.

What are the symptoms of a wart?

There are a number of different types of wart, and this will affect the appearance and symptoms that accompany it.

We’ve listed a few of the more common ones below, along with their symptoms:

  • Common warts

    These are round in shape and will be slightly raised up from your skin. They are hard to touch and have a rough surface. They’ll look speckled in colour – the black speckles are tiny blood vessels.

    Size wise, they’re usually no bigger than a centimetre wide and are common on your hands (usually on your knuckles or fingers) and they can develop on your knees too.
  • Verrucas

    These small warts occur on the sole of the feet. They’ll look different to a common wart, being white, sometimes with a black spot in the middle, and are flat.

    This type of wart can be a little bit painful – it can feel like a pin prick when you walk on one, and they can be itchy too.
  • Plantar or palmar warts

    These are common in children and develop on the hands (palmar) or bottom of the foot (plantar).

    They are usually quite small and can develop in clusters, when they’re called mosaic warts. These warts grow together to create a ‘mosaic’ pattern.
  • Periungal warts

    These occur around or under the nails – either on your hands or feet. They’re rough in texture and can sometimes be painful – once they’ve grown, they can resemble a cauliflower in texture and may spread.

    You may also find that they can distort the shape of your nail as they develop.
  • Plane warts

    These are flat warts, which can develop in clusters. They’ll be yellow in colour and are usually no larger than 4mm in width. Most often, children are affected by this type of wart and they usually affect their hands, legs and face.

  • Filiform warts

    Sometimes called face warts, these look quite different to all other warts, and only appear on the face or neck. They have a long, single stalk, which can be yellow, pink, brown or the same colour as your skin. They commonly appear on eyelids and lips.
  • Genital warts

    These are different to the other warts mentioned here. They are soft and appear on the genitals, and are sexually transmitted, causing itching, discomfort or pain. Find out more about genital warts.

How are warts diagnosed?

Warts can be diagnosed by our doctors during an online video consultation. The doctor will be able to look at the affected area, identify it and recommend the treatment that is needed, if any.

In rarer cases, you may be referred for further testing, which our GPs can arrange for you. If you have a wart on your face, you will usually be referred to a specialist if you need treatment.

If you’re worried about a wart, you can speak to a doctor for more advice. You should also speak to a GP if your wart:

  • Is very painful
  • Bleeds
  • Keeps returning
  • Changes appearance
  • Is on your face
  • ls on your genitals

What causes warts?

Warts are caused by a viral infection called the human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus can be spread from person to person or by touching an already contaminated surface, although you need close skin-to-skin contact to pass it on.

The virus can live on your skin without causing any harm, but if you have any trauma to the skin, like a scratch, the virus can get in to it, leading to a reaction that causes a wart to develop.

Because warts can be spread by close contact with infected skin or through touching something where the virus is present, such as in showers and gym changing rooms, you may wish to take preventative measures.

Your skin is more likely to get infected if it is damaged or wet, so you can cover damaged skin as a method of helping to preventing warts.

Children and young adults are also more prone to developing warts, as are people with weakened immune systems.

You can also spread the condition around your own body, so if you have a wart on your hand, for example, try not put it near your face, or bite your nails, as this could pass the virus to your face.

What is the treatment for warts?

Many warts will clear up on their own, but this process may take up to several years, as it can take that long for your body to rid itself of the virus. Treating them can speed up this process.

If the wart is painful, itchy, or is in a visible place and is causing you to be self-conscious, you can get treatment for it from a pharmacist or doctor.

The two most common ways to treat a wart include:

  • Salicylic acid

    Available in gels, pads, drops and plasters, salicylic acid can be used to treat warts of all sizes. This keratolytic medication dissolves keratin (a skin protein), which accounts for most of the mass of the wart. It is not recommended to use this method on areas of sensitive skin. You can buy this over the counter at a pharmacy.
  • Freezing method (cryotherapy)

    Freezing sprays create a temperature of minus 57 Celsius, which causes the wart to fall off after a couple of weeks, although you may need more than one session.

    If your wart does not respond to treatment, you may be referred to a skin specialist for further treatment or investigations.

How can Push Doctor help?

At Push Doctor, you can speak to a GP on any device such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone. You don’t need to wait weeks for an appointment and our GPs are available seven days a week. You can have your video consultation from home, work or even when you are out and about.

Our doctors will listen to your concerns and symptoms, diagnose your wart and recommend an effective treatment if suitable. If needed, they will also be able to refer you to a specialist for further investigation.

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