Let's face it, warts are not pretty to look at... and they can hurt too. Not only do you have to look like a toad until they're gone, you have to be careful not to bump into or dive in hands first at anything so you don't wail in agony.
If you've never had one but always wondered what those ugly, grainy growths are on the fingers of people that have had them (hello, grandparents!), here's what you need to know so you can help yourself or a loved one remove warts on fingers naturally and efficiently.
What causes common warts?
Warts are grainy, small skin growths that normally pop up on hands and fingers. Though they seem to appear out of nowhere, warts are actually caused by human papillomavirus (1).
There are more than 100 types of viruses that cause warts which have been identified by scientists. Usually, this virus causes the infection in areas where the top layer of the skin is broken or can be transmitted by touching a person with the condition or coming into contact with objects or surfaces that contain the virus.
Older generations, children and young adults are more likely to develop and get warts thanks to weaker immune systems, sharing playpens and grabbing toys, and sex respectively (2). Believe it or not, warts can also be transmitted by shaking hands with an infected person or using a towel or keyboard that has been used by a person with warts!
Common warts caused by human papillomavirus are generally harmless, but in some cases, they can develop into more serious health issues, so if you're concerned about a wart you or a loved one has, ask your doctor for more information and advice.
Typically, warts can disappear after some time but some people have no choice but to remove them with the help of a medical practitioner if they get too big, bothersome or plain embarrassing.
The different types of warts
Not to be confused with genital warts, the five main different kinds of warts are:
• Common warts which usually grow on your fingers and toes, but can appear elsewhere, and have a rough, grainy appearance and a rounded top. They also appear more grey in colour than the surrounding skin.
• Plantar warts which grow on the soles of the feet. Unlike other warts, plantar warts grow into your skin, not out of it, and you'll notice what looks like a small hole in the bottom of your foot, surrounded by hardened skin.
• Flat warts usually grow on the face, thighs or arms. They're small, have a flat top, and are pink, brown or a little yellow in colour.
• Filiform warts usually grow around the mouth or nose and sometimes on the neck. They're small and shaped like a skin tag.
• Periungual warts usually grow under and around the toenails and fingernails. They can be painful and affect nail growth.
How to get rid of warts on fingers
A dermatologist, pharmacist or GP can help with more information if you are concerned about a wart as they can easily tell if someone has warts by just looking at the skin area. Although rare, some dermatologists may undertake a skin biopsy to be sure that it is warts. Warts can disappear on their own without needing treatment, but there are some cases where if you're in pain or see that the warts are spreading to other areas, you have to step in and destroy with the help of a professional. The main goal in treating warts is to stimulate your immune system so that it can be able to defend itself against the virus causing warts. It can usually take a few weeks or months before the symptoms start to disappear, but in some cases, warts can pop up again even after you got it dealt with.
Best home remedies to get rid of common warts
If you're sure you have warts but feel like you can take them on yourself, there are some key home remedies to get rid of warts and treat skin overgrowths:
1. Duct tape
If you have duct tape at home, you can use it to cover the warts for about six days. Later, soak the area in water before using a disposable emery board to scrape and remove the dead tissue of the wart.
2. Salicylic acid
Salicylic acid is a non-prescription product that can used to remove warts from home. It's available as both a liquid and a patch. To get the best results, soak the affected skin area in warm water for about 10 to 20 minutes before applying the salicylic acid.
You can find non-prescription aerosol wart-freezing products sold over the counter. These freezing aerosols work by causing a blister to appear around the wart. The dead skin then naturally sloughs off after a few days. However, you may require a repeat of the freezing procedure to effectively get rid of the wart. It's best to see a medical professional to perform this procedure.
When do you need to see a doctor about warts?
As previously mentioned, a dermatologist, pharmacist or GP can help with accessing your concern about a wart. A pharmacist may help recommend creams, plasters and sprays to remove warts or verrucas, too. Usually, these products can take around 3 months to complete and may come with some irritation to the skin.
If you are more concerned, your GP can help if you are worried about the growth of the wart, if it keeps coming back, if it's really big, bleeds or if it's somewhere other than your hands or feet, like your face or genitals (3). Always seek medical attention for warts on your face and genitals as it's not recommended to use the products from pharmacies in these areas before discussing with a medical professional.
Can warts be prevented?
Though skin warts can’t be prevented, there are a few things you can do to prevent your risk of getting them. One of the most important things you can do is to wash your hands regularly. Also, try to keep your skin healthy, moisturized, and free of cuts. If you bite your fingernails or cuticles, do your best to stop! Biting your nails creates an opening for the virus to enter your skin and start infecting. When you're out and about, make sure to use clean or paper towels and always wear rubber-soled flip-flops or sandals in gym locker rooms and showers.
If you wake up one morning and you or your loved one has a grainy wart that's popped up out of nowhere, don't freak out! You can try these popular home remedies to get rid of them fast before you feel like you have no choice but to lance them off at the Doc's office.
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1. National Library of Medicine: https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2492590/
2. Science-Based Medicine Journal: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/warts/
3. NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/warts-and-verrucas/