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Monday, 11 February 2019 08:28

Warts Featured

In the 17th Century cutting edge medical advice to cure your warts was to:

“ Wash your hands in moonbeams in an otherwise empty well polished silver basin.”

And sometimes it worked! Then again so did spitting on your wart and rubbing it three times in the direction of a passing funeral.

The cause and treatment of common skin warts has a long and weird history. There are the harmless claims they are caused by handling toads or washing your hands in water used to boil eggs. But, some of the folklore was more sinister. In the 17th Century warts could be considered the Devil’s mark in a witch trial and condemn some unfortunate women to being burnt alive.

Thankfully we have advanced a bit further in our knowledge although there are still plenty of claims about what will make a wart disappear.

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) causes warts. There are over 200 different subtypes and they infect skin and mucous membranes (lining of mouth, airway and genital area). Some subtypes that infect the throat and genital tract can cause cancer such as cervical cancer. However skin types do not have any malignant potential.

Skin warts are common at all ages although most commonly seen in the 12-16 year age groups. They are found in 10% of children and young adults at any time.

Skin warts are not associated with witchcraft you would be pleased to know. They are associated with a preference to walk barefoot, nail biting and any condition that reduces immunity. It is likely that certain people are just more genetically susceptible to the infection.

The virus is caught from the skin of other people or objects or surfaces they have come in contact with. It gains access through small breaks in the skin, which are common on the fingers near the nails, shaving cuts in the beard area and on the legs in women.

The appearance varies from being well…warty, to quite flat as with plantar warts on the soles of the feet.

The reason so many things have been claimed to cure warts is that they mostly disappear spontaneously with time. In one year about half of primary school aged children will lose their wart and by two years as high as two thirds will be wart free. So it is not uncommon to try anything to cure the wart then find it disappears over the coming weeks.

Genuine treatment for warts is difficult, painful, time consuming and does not have complete success every time. The two most common ways are to freeze the warts or treat them chemically with salicylic acid preparations.

Freezing is painful, can lead to scarring if done too vigorously and often needs to be repeated a few times to be successful. Using salicylic acid pastes is slow and time consuming and requires commitment over six to twelve weeks.  Both treatments when done well are about 70% effective in curing the wart.

Usually masterful inactivity is the best approach to wart elimination with the knowledge that most will disappear over time.

The appearance or the number of warts can distress people. Also some warts can be irritated, become painful or bleed.

In these circumstances it is worth seeing you local doctor to discuss the alternative to finding a well-polished silver basin!