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HPV

illustration showing human papaloma virus | Goodman Dermatology

Illustration of Human Papaloma Virus (HPV).

The HPV virus enters the skin through a small scratch or wound. This explains why warts often appear around fingernails where the skin is often dry or cracked. After the skin becomes infected by the HPV virus, skin cells to start reproducing more rapidly. This creates small bumps where the skin is a bit thicker than the surrounding skin. It may also have a slightly different color. It can take 12 months for the growths to appear after an infection with the virus.

The virus is very common. Most people who are exposed to the virus do not develop warts. This is because their body’s immune system recognizes the HPV virus and attacks it before it can start a growth.

Even those who develop warts may find that they disappear on their own without treatment. It seems in those cases, the warts go away when the body’s immune system finally recognizes the virus as foreign and starts to attack the underlying infection. Warts tend to heal on their own within 2 years in children and 5 to 7 years in adults.

Treatment options beside laser include:

  • Occlusion—covering the wart in a bandage or strip of tape
  • Over the counter medications (salicylic acid)
  • Cryotherapy (freezing)
  • Electrosurgery
  • Prescription medications

Warts have a tendency to return, so repeated treatments may be necessary.