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Warts are common abnormal skin growths caused by one of many types of human papilloma virus, which infects the outer layer of skin.
Common warts (verruca vulgaris) can appear on any part of the body but are more common on the fingers, hands, and arms. They are most common in people 30 years old or younger, but can occur at any age and are almost universal in the population. Other types of warts also exist, including flat warts, genital warts, laryngeal papillomas, and others.
Appearance and size of warts depend on the location and the amount of irritation and trauma. Common warts are sharply demarcated, rough-surfaced, round or irregular in shape, firm, and either light gray, yellow, brown, or gray-black in color. They are small nodules ranging in size from 2–10 mm in diameter. Plantar warts (on the bottoms of the feet) are flattened and may be exquisitely tender. Flat warts, more common in children and young adults, are smooth, flat-topped yellow-brown elevations, most often seen on the face and along scratch marks. Genital warts (also called condyloma acuminata or venereal warts) are soft, moist, small pink or gray polyps that enlarge and are usually found in clusters on the anus and the warmer, moister areas of the female and male genitalia. Genital warts caused by HPV are considered a major cause of cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer. All warts are contagious.
Warts can be spread by contact, and the transmission can occur between two people as well as between different parts of the body of the same person. To prevent the spread of the virus, warts should not be scratched. Genital warts are spread by sexual contact.
A study of HIV-infected and HIV-negative women found that current smokers were over five times more likely to develop genital warts than nonsmokers.1
Distant healing is a conscious, dedicated act of mental activity that attempts to benefit another person’s physical or emotional well-being at a distance. A controlled study found that distant healing by an experienced healer for six weeks had no effect on the number or size of warts.2
A controlled study found that the application of 122ºF heat from a heat pad for 30 seconds led to regression in 25 warts.3 After 15 weeks, none of the regressed warts had regrown.
Hypnosis is a widely recognized treatment for warts. One controlled trial found that twice-weekly hypnosis sessions resulted in greater wart disappearance than did medication, placebo, or no treatment after six weeks of therapy.4
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2017.