Warts are actually benign tumors of the epidermis caused by a virus. The virus responsible is the human papillomavirus (HPV), a double-stranded DNA virus. The virus resides in the bottom layer of the epidermis and replicates into almost normal-looking skin. Different sub-types of HPV cause different types of warts. Some human papillomavirus subtypes also cause cervical cancer and other more obscure types of wart-related cancers.
The Wart Root Myth
Contrary to popular belief, warts do not have "roots".
They only grow in the top layer of skin, the epidermis.
When they grow down, they displace the second layer
of skin, the dermis. They do not grow into the dermis.
The underside of a wart is actually smooth.
The Appearance of Warts
Warts normally grow out of the skin in cylindrical
columns. These columns do not fuse when the wart
grows on thin skin such as the face. On thicker skin,
the columns fuse and are packed tightly together
giving the surface the typical mosaic pattern. Black
dots can sometimes be seen in a wart. These are
actually blood vessels that have grown rapidly and
irregularly into the wart and have thombosed or
Who Gets Warts?
Warts can occur in people of all ages, but occur most commonly in children and young adults. They spread by direct contact, simply by touching the wart. Most warts resolve within weeks or months with regular treatments, but some may take years. It appears that a person's susceptibility to warts and the time it takes for them to go away is related to the individual's immune system. People who have immune-related diseases such as AIDS and lymphoma, or who are taking chemotherapy tend to have more warts that last longer.
There are two in-office treatment options for effectively treating warts, both of which typically require multipe sessions. Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) and Beetle Juice (Cantharidin) are both very effective in destroying the virus. It is common to develop blisters with either treatment. We typically recommend retrating the area every 2-3 weeks in order to help prevent the area from spreading and achieve quicker clearance. It is important to not pick the area after treatment. Your provider can further discuss both treatments and help you determine which option is appropriate for you.