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Warts are benign changes of the skin and mucosa caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), and they are common in all age groups. They appear on fingers, face, feet and the back of the hand. On the sole of the foot, they sometimes form a big cluster known as a verruca. Warts can also appear in the corners of the mouth, around the nostrils, or on the eyelids and the scalp.

Warts are at first smooth but can later become cauliflower-like or crater-like. Warts are common, and there’s no evidence that they can be avoided. A break in the skin is needed for the virus to enter. There is no specific treatment that gets rid of all warts. Atopic dermatitis and some other conditions can delay their healing. Warts do not involve a risk of malignancy. 

Self-care

Individual warts can be treated at home, but avoid methods that cause pain and may cause scarring.

  • You can try over-the-counter products containing salicylic and lactic acids or patches containing 40% salicylic acid.
    • Start by soaking your foot or hand in water for about 10 to 15 minutes.
    • File or scratch off as much loose skin as you can over the wart.
    • Dry the skin with a clean towel.
    • Apply cream to the wart. You can protect the surrounding skin.
    • Cover the wart with a patch.
    • Repeat the treatment daily.
    • If the wart is on the sole of your foot (a verruca), you can reduce the pressure on it by using a round piece of plastic foam.
  • You can also try “the tape treatment”.
    • Cut a piece of duct tape the size of the wart.
    • Attach the tape to the skin and leave it there for 6 days at a time. Then take a one-day break during which you should remove the tape and file or scrape off the dead surface layer.
  • The treatment response should be assessed after two months at the earliest. This treatment requires a lot of patience.
  • If topical agents are not sufficient to treat the verruca or a corn that has formed around it, you can thin the corn using a knife or treat it with cold compression.

When should you seek treatment?

Contact a healthcare professional if:

  • the wart site has a sore that doesn’t heal or starts to bleed by itself.
  • the area around the wart is reddish and the wart oozes pus.
  • the wart is located on the genitals or around the anus.
  • there’s a corn around the verruca or the verruca is painful when you walk.

Information sources: The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim: Terveysportti, Lääkärin tietokanta database

FSHS General Practitioner / 09 January 2020

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