Warts, medically known as "verrucae vulgaris", are benign tumor-like bumps on the skin caused by "human papillomavirus". HPV specifically relates to a group of approximately one hundred related viruses. The hard bumps are normally the color of skin but can be grayish, blackish, and yellow, and in most instances are very rough like sandpaper. Some look like cauliflower and others have block dots. Because there are so many viruses involved in HPV, warts come in different categories. Common warts, like those that appear on the hands, fingers, elbows, knees and feet are entirely different than genital warts. In fact, common warts are caused by an infection in the top layer of the skin while genital warts are sexually transmitted diseases.
Indeed, there are no real symptoms associated with common warts. Basically, seeing one is enough to know someone has the virus. For most children, as long as they do not pick at the warts, the warts generally go away on their own. The virus is spread through open scratches, cuts and sores in the skin. But one child touching another child's wart will not usually transmit the virus. It has been found, however, that children using the same towels may contract warts. And contrary to an old wives' tale, one cannot get warts from holding a toad or frog.
Plantar warts and flat warts are also part of the wart family. Because plantar or palmar warts form on the soles of the feet, they can be quite painful from the constant pressure. Flat warts are so called due to their smoother texture. They have been found to be pink, brown and yellow, and usually appear on children's faces. Adults can get flat warts as well, but they are usually the result of shaving. Filiform warts are long, narrow growths on the lips, mouth and eyelids. And periungual warts are found around the fingernails, typically on those who bite their nails.
Each type of wart is caused by a different HPV. Each HPV is numbered and can be identified as the root of a specific infection. At least thirty of the HPVs are transmitted through sexual contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it has been estimated that about one percent of the American population suffers from genital warts at any given time. Genital warts can be flat or protruded and can be painful or without pain.
Because of warts research, each HPV was classified and potential treatments were found for various warts. In cases where the wart is not painful and is not in an area where it causes a nuisance, the recommended course of action is to leave it alone. But many people do not like the look of warts and as a result prefer to use over-the-counter remedies to freeze the wart.
Warts research has provided other forms of treatment such as topical irritants, laser treatments, and cryosurgery with liquid nitrogen. Further, a vaccine has recently been developed for young girls in order to immunize against genital warts. Approved in the US and Canada in 2006, Gardasil® is administered to "protect against infections with some strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, that are said to be responsible for about 70 per cent of cervical cancers and most genital warts".
Prevention is the key to avoiding warts. Without warts research, we would not now instruct children to use their own washcloths and towels as opposed to sharing. Like most viruses, children should be taught to wash their hands regularly. It is important for both children and adults to wear flip-flops when using public showers like those in hotels or campgrounds. In the case of genital warts, because they afflict both men and women, sexual contact with the same partner is encouraged, as well as refraining from genital contact. It should be noted that condoms do not necessarily prevent genital warts.
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