Health

Warts

Oh no! Your child has come home from school with a wart! How did he catch it, how can you prevent contagion and what can you do to get rid of it?

What are warts?

Warts are the result of a viral infection caused by a virus in the family of human papillomavirus (HPV) and they are contagious. Rough in appearance, these small growths that form on the skin are about a few millimeters in diameter, are usually painless and appear mostly on hands or feet, but can also be seen on the face, back or other parts of the body such as elbows or knees.

Types of warts

Since there are many types of HPV, you may encounter several types of warts and their appearance may vary depending on the location of the body they are located on. Here are the 5 most common types:

  • Common wart: these non-painful warts usually appear most often on the hands and fingers (especially in children) and are bumpy, rough, flesh-colored or gray in appearance.
  • Plantar wart: Plantar warts appear on the soles of your feet. They are rough and can sometimes be painful due to the pressure exerted by the body in an upright position.
  • Flat wart: These warts are small, smooth and tend to be grouped on the face, legs or back of the hands.
  • Filiform wart: You can find these warts around the eyes, on the eyelids, face and around the mouth and neck.
  • Periungual or subungual wart: These warts appear around or under fingernails and are more common in people who bite their nails.
According to Passeport Santé, warts affect 7 % to 10 % of the general population and a recent study in the Netherlands concluded that a third of children in a primary school had at least one wart, located mainly on feet or hands.

Symptoms and complications

The virus is introduced under the skin when there is a direct contact with an infected person or when you touch an object that has been touched by a person who was infected. Normally, the incubation period between exposure to the virus and the appearance of the wart is between 2 and 6 months, which can make identifying where the contamination happened difficult. To make sure it’s really a wart, check for these easy signs:

  • One or more skin growths, rough to the touch
  • You should be able to see small black dots in the growth
  • The wart may cause itching or even pain, especially if it’s located on the soles of the feet.

Despite their somewhat ugly appearance, know that warts are usually benign and most will disappear on their own without treatment within a few months. Some complications are possible and if you notice the appearance of one or many of the following symptoms, you should consult a physician for treatment or further diagnosis:

  • A wart that doesn’t disappear by itself, which persists despite treatments or multiplies and reappears.
  • If the wart causes pain
  • If it is located on the nail or distorts the nail
  • If there is bleeding
  • If the wart has an abnormal appearance
  • If you notice signs of infection
  • If the infection spreads to other parts of the body
  • If the wart affects the ability to walk or the person experiences discomfort when standing.

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