M.D. Claiborne & Associates, L.L.C. - Dermatology Specialists

Warts are non-cancerous skin growths caused by viral infection in the top layer of the skin or mucus membranes. Viruses that cause warts belong to a family called human papillomavirus (HPV). Also known as verruca, warts are usually skin colored and feel rough to the touch, but they can be dark, flat or smooth. There are several types of warts: common warts (around nails on the fingers and toes), foot warts (also called plantar warts and located on the soles of the feet), flat warts (flatter and smoother than other warts). Flat warts can grow in great numbers at any one time. Flat warts can be found on children’s faces, the beards of men, and legs of women-irritation from shaving could account for this spread.

Verruca (wart)

Verruca (wart)

Viral infections commonly result in skin lesions and rashes. Typically, a rash occurs, and resolution is seen after the immune system clears the infection. This is a common pattern in children. Some viruses lie dormant in the host’s cells and reactivate at a later time, sometimes years later. Another pattern is a chronic infection. Viruses can infect the skin by direct inoculation, by local spread, or by systemic infection. Viruses are microscopic organisms whose survival is entirely dependent on using the DNA of other living cells (called host cells) to develop and multiply. The virus growth cycle has four stages. First, the virus attaches to a receptor on the cell’s membrane. Second, the virus penetrates the cell either by fusing with the membrane or by being engulfed by the cell and delivered into its interior. Third, the virus is transported into the cell’s nucleus where the virus uses the host cell’s DNA to reproduce. Finally, the infectious virus particles (virions) are assembled and released from the host cell. The length of this cycle varies and can last several hours to many years (latent infection).

It is reasonable to have all warts treated since they can spread to other parts of the body and to other people. Warts are treated either by using salicylic acid, cryotherapy (freezing),or electrodessication (burning). Several treatments one month apart are often needed, as the viral particles are located deep in the skin. More treatment resistant warts can be treated with injectable immune system stimulating medications to cause the body’s immune system to recognize the virus.