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Viral warts. Are they worth fearing?

The warts are benign epidermal growth with the size ranging from one to several millimeters. The causative agent of the warts is human papilloma virus (HPV).  At present, there are some dozens of HPV types.

  1. Common warts (verrucae vulgares) present the most widely spread type. These are non-inflammatory papules; at first, small, smooth, flesh-colored with gradual darkening and uneven, rough surface. Sometimes they merge. As a rule, the first wart is larger in size and is called “maternal”. These warts are often observed in the areas of friction and periungually. They usually cause no subjective sensations.
  2. Flat warts (verrucae planae juveniles) are mostly found in adolescents and young people. Patients present with numerous, flesh-colored and pink, firm papules from one to several millimeters in diameter. Most often, they are round in form. Unlike common warts, they are slightly rough. These warts are usually located on the wrists, face and the neck. They are painless, but a slight itching may occur. The disease may last from several months to several years with spontaneous resolution.
  3. Plantar warts (verrucae plantares) occur rather often and can be seen on the friction and high pressure areas of the soles of the feet. They appear like firm, round, flesh-colored to brown papules from several millimeters to two centimeters in diameter. When scraped, the warts crumble, demonstrating hypertrophic dermal papilla. These warts are often painful. Without a proper treatment, this disease has a long course.

Some authors distinguish other types of warts as well, such as pointed, thread-like, heart-shaped and Butcher’s warts. This subdivision is based on outward appearance of the warts.

People can be infected directly, indirectly or through autoinoculation. Direct transmission occurs during a contact with the infected person. Indirect way of transmission is possible through household articles, where a causative agent can preserve for some period of time. Autoinoculation implies a transfer of a causative agent from one part of the body to the other. It frequently results from friction of clothes.

But not all people get ill, because for the virus to invade and develop in the human cells, certain conditions are necessary, such as skin micro-traumas and the immune system disturbances. Incubation period (from the invasion of the virus to clinical manifestations)lasts from several weeks to several months.

The following methods of treating the warts are used:

  1. Removal with the help of Co2laser is considered to be one of the most effective methods.
  2. Cryodestruction is the removal using liquid nitrogen.
  3. Surgical removal.
  4. Electrocoagulation.
  5. Removal with the use of chemical substances should be performed only by the doctor-dermatologist. Independent removal at home is forbidden.
  6. The use of cytotoxic substances.
  7. Immunologic methods.

Every method has its advantages and disadvantages. Optimal effect is reached by using a rational combination of methods or by choosing a proper method of treatment in every situation. Otherwise, complications are likely to develop. The warts respond well to treatment. When removing, several procedures may be necessary to be performed depending on the spread, depth and site of the warts.

Most common cosmetic defects occur in the form of scars and burns when the patients try to remove large elements of the warts themselves using some solutions, acids or alkali. Self-medication may also lead to further spread of the warts in the case of their incomplete removal. So, you shouldn’t be afraid of viral warts but timely apply to the doctor and seek qualified medical advice.

Yu. A. Shalomitskaya,  doctor-dermatovenerologist