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What is Verruca Vulgaris?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2016
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Verruca vulgaris is the medical term for common warts, the small flesh-colored bumps that typically appear on the hands. Common warts are caused by strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), a highly contagious, widespread pathogen. Verruca vulgaris is generally harmless and warts rarely require treatment for health reasons. If a person is concerned or embarrassed about the physical appearance of warts, home remedies are usually effective at removing them. Recurring, persistent, or painful warts should be addressed at a doctor's office to ensure they are treated correctly.

There are hundreds of unique strains of HPV, and certain types manifest in different ways. The types that cause verruca vulgaris are relatively weak, from an immunological standpoint, and health complications beyond the appearance of warts are unlikely. Common warts typically arise on the fingers and backs of the hands, but it is possible for a wart to grow on a foot, knee, elbow, or elsewhere on the body. HPV is very contagious, and rubbing or scratching a wart can transfer the virus to another finger. Other people can also acquire HPV by touching an individual's wart or sharing toiletries.

Verruca vulgaris is most often seen in young children, and many people are symptom-free by adulthood as their immune systems become stronger. Common warts are usually raised, rough, and less than 0.5 inches (about 1.25 centimeters) in diameter. They rarely itch or cause pain, and most warts go away on their own about two years after they emerge.

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Since verruca vulgaris is harmless, doctors generally discourage treating the condition to avoid complications. Many people, however, opt to have them removed for aesthetic purposes. Occasionally, treatment is necessary when warts on the fingertips make it difficult to type or hold a pen. There are several different methods for removing warts, and most do not require a trip to the doctor's office.

Pharmacies, supermarkets, and online specialty stores sell many over-the-counter wart remedies. Pads and topical creams that contain salicylic acid are usually very effective at drying and eventually killing wart tissue. A pumice stone or sterilized nail file can also be used to scrape away dead skin. Some retailers sell liquid nitrogen applicators, which, when used exactly as directed, can freeze warts and cause them to fall off. Some people try to use scalpels to remove warts at home, but doctors strongly suggest against doing so as cutting can damage underlying skin and leave the area susceptible to infection.

Warts that return or do not respond to home treatment can be removed by a doctor. A dermatologist can use liquid nitrogen to freeze them away or an electric cauterization tool to burn them off. Large, persistent warts may need to be excised with a scalpel. When performed by a professional, wart removal is almost always effective.

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