How does it develop?
The ‘common’ wart, or verruca vulgaris, is caused by a virus: the human papilloma virus. This virus is not only present in the wart itself, but also in the surrounding, healthy skin.
Every person can get warts, but some people are more susceptible to get them than others. Most people who get warts suffer from them for just a few months or years as their immune system will destroy them. This means that the infection usually cures itself, but some people can suffer from them for many years.
Patients with a disturbed immune system easily contract warts. These can also become very large and untreatable. This can happen, for example, with HIV patients and patients who have to take immunosuppressive medication such as prednisone or ciclosporin. They can also appear with children and adults whose immune system is not functioning adequately.
Warts are easier to contract on a damaged skin. They can spread in skin creases or through scratching, which is especially common with the small, flat warts (verruca plana).
Warts are easy to recognise. They may sometimes be confused with corns when the wart is located on a pressure point. The difference can be seen by carefully cutting or scraping off a few layers of skin flakes with a knife. When it is a wart, you will see, at some point, small black dots, which is clotted blood coming from the blood vessels that can be found towards the surface of the wart.
As warts usually go away by themselves, it is not always necessary to treat them. You can also wait and see if they disappear of their own accord. As warts most often develop with children and all treatments are to some extent painful, waiting may be the best first option. With nearly two-thirds of the patients, warts disappear spontaneously within 2 years. It is, however, useful to treat warts when they cause complaints (pain), are cosmetically disturbing, or very persistent.
All treatments are aimed to destroy the virus. As the virus has embedded itself in the living part of the skin, most treatments are painful. It is sometimes sufficient to partially remove and irritate the wart, after which the own immune system is stimulated and gets rid of the wart. There are also a few creams (Aldara, Imiquimod) that stimulate the own immune system. Common warts, however, can be treated by simpler and cheaper methods. The dermatologist will give you further advice.
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