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What are warts?
Those hard, bumpy, rough growths we call warts can happen anywhere on the body. They’re transmitted by casual contact, so they’re most common on the hands, fingers, face, and feet.
Warts come from human papilloma viruses (HPV). There are over 100 types of HPV, and only a small number of those viruses cause warts. Below we look at the types of warts most likely to happen on your fingers and 12 different ways to remove them.
Hands and fingers are particularly vulnerable to infection. There are several types of warts which occur in these areas. Knowing which kind of wart you have can help you in treating it. The most likely types you could find on your fingers include:
This is the kind of wart you’re most likely to get on the backs of your hands and fingers. They range in size from very tiny, like a poppy seed, to pea-sized. Common warts have a rough, scaly texture, and are hard to the touch. They vary in color and can be white, tan, pink, grey, or flesh-toned. Sometimes, tiny clotted blood vessels that look like black dots can be visible in a common wart.
These warts look like common warts and were historically found in people who regularly handle raw meat and fish without gloves, hence the name. It’s not known if the virus that causes these warts is inherently found in animals, or if raw animal products are a good conduit for people to transmit the virus to each other.
While most common on the face, flat warts are another type of wart which may occur on the backs of hands and the lower arms. They are very tiny in size. Flat warts can appear in small-to-large clusters, looking like many tiny pinheads. These types of warts are smooth to the touch, flat on top, and slightly raised. They can be flesh-toned, pinkish, or yellowish-brown in color.
Palmar warts are sometimes caused by picking at plantar warts, the type most commonly found on feet. If these warts appear in a cluster, they are referred to as mosaic warts. Palmar warts can sometimes hurt. They’re usually the size of a pea and vary in color from flesh-toned to pink, or dark brown.
Periungual and subungual warts
Periungual warts appear around fingernails and subungual warts occur under fingernails. Both start out tiny, around the size of a poppy seed, but grow in size. These warts also tend to spread, forming clusters. They may be more likely to occur in people who bite their nails and hangnails.
If left untreated, these warts can spread deep under the nail bed, causing fungal infection and permanent damage. Periungual and subungual warts require professional treatment to remove, and may be harder to eliminate than other types of warts.
There are a lot of different techniques for removing warts. Warts can also clear up on their own without any treatment, but that may take months or years. Warts in children tend to dissipate more readily than warts in adults.
If you choose to let a wart heal on its own, try not to touch it. This may spread the virus to other parts of your body or to other people.
No matter how they’re removed, warts may reoccur after they have gone away.
The best treatment method for wart removal is determined, in part, by the type of wart you have. There are a number of professional and at-home remedies that are effective for wart removal.
At-home wart removal
Common warts on the backs of the hands and fingers can often be treated at home. Here are seven options for at-home wart removal:
Salicylic acid may be the most effective topical wart-removal treatment. It’s available over-the-counter in several forms, including as a concentrated liquid, gel, or adhesive pad. It’s also available in varying strengths. Before using, talk to your doctor about the type and strength of salicylic acid you should use.
For best results, soak your wart in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes first, to soften it. Then, file away the dead skin on top using a nail file or pumice stone. Make sure to stop filing if you feel any discomfort. Next, apply the salicylic acid according to your doctor’s directions, or the directions on the package.
It may take several weeks for the wart to fall off. Stop using salicylic acid if your skin becomes irritated, swollen, or painful.
Duct tape occlusion
It may sound unconventional, but duct tape can be effective at removing warts on the hands and fingers. It may work by removing the wart, layer by layer, over the course of several weeks.
Place a small piece of duct tape on your wart and leave it in place for three to six days. Remove the tape and gently scrape the wart down with a nail file or pumice stone, leaving it exposed to air for around twelve hours. Reapply the duct tape and repeat this process until the wart is gone completely.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a mild acid that may help to burn off the wart while attacking the virus. Create a mixture of two parts apple cider vinegar and one part water. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and apply to the wart. Tape or bandage it in place overnight. Repeat nightly until the wart is gone.
Lemon juice should always be diluted before use. The method is similar to apple cider vinegar. A study in the India Journal of Dermatology indicated that the citric acid in lemon juice was as effective as tretinoin topical cream at wart removal, and it produced less side effects.
Garlic contains antiviral properties, thanks to a compound it contains called allium sativum. Place crushed garlic directly on the wart, and cover. Reapply daily, until the wart is gone. You can also file down the wart with a pumice stone prior to replacing the garlic each day.
Clear nail polish
This folk remedy is thought to work by smothering the wart. Try painting the wart with clear nail polish every other day for two weeks.
Liquid butane spray
This over-the-counter medication is sprayed onto the wart, killing the tissue and freezing it off. It can be painful for some people, and is not always as effective as professional freezing techniques.
If you have several warts or if your wart is painful, see a doctor. You should also seek medical treatment if your warts don’t improve with home treatment or if they spread.
Professional wart removal
Some warts on the fingers or hands may require professional treatment. Periungual and subungual warts should always be examined by a doctor. If you have many warts on your hands, it may be difficult to treat them on your own.
Here are five professional wart removal options:
Your doctor may inject antigens, such as Candida, into the wart to generate an immune reaction. Discomfort, swelling, and redness may occur.
Electrodessication and curettage
This procedure is done under a local anesthetic. It sends electrical currents into the wart, killing off its blood supply. Your doctor can then snip off the wart.
Cantharidin is a chemical that causes a blister to form under the wart. It is painted onto the wart, and left to penetrate it for several hours. Later, your doctor will be able to remove the wart. This treatment can be painful for some people.
Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen, which is either injected or applied onto the wart, freezing it off. This treatment is sometimes done in conjunction with salicylic acid treatments.
Your doctor may use a pulsed-dye laser to cauterize the blood vessels in the wart. This kills the tissue and causes the wart to fall off. Scarring may sometimes occur.
How is salicylic acid treatment in the doctor’s office different from self-treatment at home?
There should be very little difference between application of salicylic acid given at a doctor’s office compared to a stronger dose given via prescription to apply at home. Your doctor may do a better job at preparing the wart area, but effective treatment means consistent applications of salicylic acid, which is much easier when done at home.Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COIAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Your hands are constantly experiencing the world around you through touch. This may put them in contact with the HPV viruses which cause warts.
Warts tend to grow or thrive in warm, moist places. The viruses that cause warts are also able to live outside of the body, so we can pick them up from common surfaces such as gym rooms and showers.
Simply being exposed to a wart virus or coming into contact with one doesn’t mean you’ll get warts. You’re more likely to be exposed by having broken skin, like cuts and scrapes.
Here are some ways you can help prevent warts:
- Avoid touching warts on other people and on yourself.
- Cover any minor cuts or scrapes on your hands.
- Keep your hands clean.
- Maintain healthy habits in crowded areas, such as public transportation vehicles.
- Avoid biting your nails or the hangnails that can form around them.
- Wear shoes or sandals in public showers and pool areas.
If you do get a wart, treat it immediately to stop it from spreading.
- Warts are caused by HPV viruses and spread through casual contact, especially if you have broken skin. Being exposed to these viruses does not mean that you will automatically get a wart.
- People with compromised immune systems may be more likely to get warts, but anyone can get them.
- Many types of warts can be treated at home and other warts require a doctor’s care.
- The viruses that cause warts cannot be cured, but warts can often be successfully removed and your immune system can work to get rid of the infection.