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Keeping away warts

This article comes in a period of writers block. I asked Roy whether he could put together a greatest hits compilation of previous articles and present them this week. I am still awaiting the reply – obviously, there are none, so here goes…

The subject of this week’s article is usually found on the fingers and can be a source of embarrassment. The wearer would love to remove it, but usually does not have the courage to do so. I know some of you are thinking, “How did he know?” I don’t – I am talking about the common wart, that’s all.

Common warts are local growths in the skin that are caused by the human papilloma virus infection. They are generally not contagious, but can be spread from person to person or be acquired through contact with a contaminated surface.

There are five kinds of common wart. They look different, and form on different parts of the body.

* Common warts grow most often on the hands, but they may be anywhere on the body. They are rough, shaped like a dome and gray-brown in colour.

* Planter warts grow on the soles of the feet. They look like hard, thick patches of skin with dark specks. Planter warts may cause pain when you walk and you may feel like you are stepping on a pebble.

* Flat warts usually grow on the face, arms or legs. They are small (usually smaller than the eraser on the end of a pencil), have flat tops and can be pink, light brown or light yellow.

* Filiform warts usually grow around the mouth, nose or beard area. They are the same colour as your skin and have growths that look like threads sticking out of them.

* Periungual warts grow under and around the toenails and fingernails. They look like rough bumps with an uneven surface and border. They can affect nail growth.

Contrary to popular belief, warts do not have “roots”. They only grow in the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. When they grow down, they displace the second layer of skin, the dermis. They do not grow into the dermis. The underside of a wart is usually smooth.

Warts in children usually go away on their own after a period of time, whilst in adults they may go away after a number of years.

Warts that are painful should be treated using a home treatment such as salicylic acid or adhesive tape. You can get these without a prescription.

The salicylic acid treatments usually contain a minimum concentration of three per cent and should be applied with care to prevent skin irritation. When applying any salicylic containing product, always remember to coat the area around the wart with Vaseline, so as to prevent contact with normal skin.

Diabetics should rarely attempt home treatments an should be treated by a doctor or podiatrist, as improper use of wart removers may lead to skin irritation and infection.

Other treatments are available such as cryotherapy, electro surgery and putting on stronger acids (all done by qualified personnel), or applying an immuno-modulator such as imiqumod (ALDARA).

Warts can be avoided by following some simple measures, such as

* Do not touch warts on yourself or others, and

* Do not share razors, socks, towels or shoes with another person. Someone with no visible warts can still be carrying the virus.

* Avoid walking barefoot on warm, moist surfaces where the wart virus may be alive.

* Wear shower shoes when using public showers, locker rooms or pool areas.

Avoid the spreading of warts by covering the wart with a bandage or tape and not biting your nails or cuticles, as this may spread warts from one finger to another.

Until next time…

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