Warts

What are warts?

Warts are non-cancerous skin growths caused by the papillomavirus. Warts are more common in children than adults, although they can develop at any age.

Warts are contagious, and can spread to other parts of the body or to other people. There are many different types of warts, due to the fact that there are more than 60 types of the papillomavirus. Warts are typically not painful, except when located on the feet, and most warts go away without treatment over an extended period of time.

What are the common types of warts?

The more common types of warts include the following:

  • Common warts are growths around nails and the back of hands; usually have a rough surface; grayish-yellow or brown in color.
  • Foot warts are located on the soles of feet (plantar warts) with black dots (clotted blood vessels that once fed them); clusters of plantar warts are called mosaic. These warts may be painful.
  • Flat warts are small, smooth growths that grow in groups up to 100 at a time; most often appear on children's faces.
  • Genital warts grow on the genitals, are occasionally sexually transmitted; are soft and do not have a rough surface like other common warts.
  • Filiform warts are small, long, narrow growths that usually appear on eyelids, face, or neck.

What is the treatment for warts?

The specific treatment for warts will be determined by a physician based on:

  • The child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • The child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the growths
  • Child or parent’s opinion or preference

Warts in children often disappear without treatment. Treatment of warts depends on several factors, including:

  • Length of time on the skin
  • Location
  • Type
  • Severity

Treatment for more stubborn or recurring warts may include:

  • Application of salicylic and lactic acid (which softens the infected area)
  • Electrodesiccation (using an electrical current to destroy the wart)
  • Immunotherapy
  • Laser surgery
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Dermatology

The Division of Dermatology at Children's National Health System continues to expand services as more families seek our expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.

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