FAMILY HEALTH: All About WARTS

MYTHS & REALITIES - TREATMENT & PREVENTION
by Lorel Kane

          Almost everyone has had one, at least once in his or her life.  The common wart is a common part of life, especially in childhood.

What is a wart?

         It's actually an infection in the top layer of skin, a rough raised growth, generally round, sometimes with a brown dot in it.  It has a distinct boundary separating it from the skin around it. Warts are usually painless, unless they're on the bottom of the feet, so-called plantar warts.

 

WHAT CAUSES WARTS?

         Warts are caused by the Human papillomavirus (HPV).  HPV has been in the news recently because of the new HPV vaccine that prevents one strain of the virus that can cause cervical cancer. The type of HPV that causes common warts is unrelated so that vaccine has no impact on warts. In fact, there are hundreds of strains of Human papillomavirus.

         Children are extremely susceptible to warts, probably because they don't have fully developed immune systems.

          They don't get warts from handling frogs or toads.  They get them from skin to skin contact with other people who have warts, or by touching an object that someone with a wart touched, like a towel. The virus is more likely to cause a wart when it comes in contact with cut or scraped skin.

         Dr. Barry Zietz, a Pediatrician with Texas Children's Pediatric Associates - West Houston, says it can take awhile after exposure to the virus for a wart to appear, possibly as long as six months.

         "The common skin wart doesn't cause major problems, mostly cosmetic, and they don't lead to skin cancer." Dr. Zietz said.

 

GETTING RID OF WARTS

         The American Academy of Dermatologists says most warts go away without treatment, especially in children, but that could take a long time.   Over the counter products that contain salicylic acid, which irritates the surface of the wart, may get rid of warts in a few weeks to months. Some dermatologists recommend prescription creams. 

         Duct tape is one home remedy that seems to work by peeling away the layers of the wart.  Dr. Zietz says you cover the wart with duct tape for six days.  After the sixth day take off the tape and let the wart "breathe," then reapply for another six days.  Repeat this process for eight weeks.

 

PREVENTING WARTS

         Everyone encounters the viruses that cause warts, yet not everyone will get them.  That may be because some people just have immune systems that fight off the virus better.

        The best way to prevent warts is to avoid contact with the virus. If a child already has a wart, make sure he or she doesn't pick or scratch it and touch another part of the body, or someone else.

         Keep breaks in the skin clean and dry.  Even a scratched mosquito bite can be a portal for a virus or bacteria.        

         Dr. Zeitz says you don't have to be a germophobe - kids share germs, that's just the way it is.  They just need to be reminded how essential it is NOT to share personal items and to wash their hands frequently.

 





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