Warts are among the most common, persistent, and frustrating conditions that we see on a daily basis in our dermatology office. Described throughout recorded human history, they affect both children and adults alike. Without treatment (sometimes even with treatment) they can persist for months, even years.
Warts, or verrucae, are a viral infection of the skin, caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are over 100 known HPV types, and the virus can infect almost any area of the skin. Probably the most common areas are the feet (known as ‘plantar warts”) and hands, but in our office we certainly see them on many other areas such as elbows and knees, the face, or the genital area (where they are known as ‘condyloma’).
Infection occurs when the skin comes into contact with the virus, whether from a surface (like a health club shower floor) or from another person; the virus infects the skin cells, which then form a visible skin lesion. From an original site on the skin, the virus can spread locally to adjacent areas, or be transferred to distant sites, such as when someone scratches or picks at a wart and then touches another part of the skin. Since the virus must live inside the cells on the surface of the skin, they cannot travel internally to the rest of the body.