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Warts are small generally harmless and usually painless growths on the skin. Warts can be disfiguring and embarrassing however and occasionally they will hurt or itch. The different types of warts include the following.
• Common warts: usually on the hands but can appear anywhere
• Flat warts: generally found on the face and back of the hands
• Genital warts: normally found on the external genitalia in the pubic area and in the area between the thighs but can appear inside the vagina and in the anal canal
• Plantar warts: found on the soles of the feet
Warts affect all age groups. Genital warts are quite contagious while common flat and plantar warts are much less likely to spread from person to person. All warts can spread from one part of the body to another. Some warts will disappear without treatment although it can take as long as six months to two years. Whether treated or not warts that disappear often reappear.
Signs and Symptoms
What Causes It?
Warts are caused by a common virus in humans the human papillomavirus (HPV). Your risk of getting warts is increased by direct contact with warts or the fluid in warts (notably genital warts) using communal facilities (such as locker rooms) skin trauma and diseases or drugs that weaken your immune system.
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Warts can generally be diagnosed by location and appearance. Your health care provider may want to cut into a wart to confirm that it is not a corn callus or other similar-appearing growth but rarely will your provider have to order laboratory tests. If you have genital warts your provider will want to check inside your anus and (in women) vagina.
Treatment depends on the type severity and location of your wart. Be sure to see your provider if your wart is on your face or genitals. Drugs usually are used first when trying to get rid of a wart. Cryosurgery ("freezing" the wart to destroy tissue) may leave a slight scar. With electrosurgery lasers or cutting out the wart it is more likely that you will have a scar. Covering the area with waterproof tape can cure warts by preventing viral growth. Hot water soaks (113° water for 30 to 45 minutes 2 to 3 times a week for 6 to 8 weeks) may cure a plantar wart.
Over the Counter
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Nutritional and herbal support may enhance immune function and minimize recurrence of HPV the virus that causes warts.
Some changes you can make in your diet include the following.
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules powders teas) glycerites (glycerine extracts) or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated teas should be made with 1 tsp. of herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
Combine tinctures of one part goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) with two parts each of the following herbs: lomatium (Lomatium dissectum) licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) osha (Ligusticum porteri) and thuja leaf (Thuja occidentalis). Take 30 drops twice a day. Do not take licorice if you have high blood pressure.
Topical applications are most effective for treating warts. Stop any topical application if irritation should develop in the surrounding skin. For plantar flat and common warts use the following applications.
To maximize benefit place two to four drops of tincture of thuja or greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) on the wart before covering with peel or garlic. This application may need to be repeated nightly for up to three weeks. The wart will turn black as it begins to die.
For external genital warts paint the warts with vitamin A or beta-carotene once or twice daily. Add 3 to 4 drops each of thuja echinacea and lomatium for best results.
Homeopathy may be useful as a supportive therapy.
Acupuncture may be helpful in stimulating your immune system.
Do not use podophyllin if you are pregnant.
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