Hundreds of thousands of Swedes suffer from warts. The problems are usually harmless but can be painful and unpleasant. In addition, they are contagious. So what can be done? Medical podiatrist Ann-Sofie Johansson answers the most common questions about warts on hands and feet.
“Look at your skin as armor against the outside world! A strong skin barrier protects against viruses and bacteria. If you want to avoid warts, you must lubricate the skin regularly so that it is kept whole, soft and resistant. Also remember to wear swimming slippers in wet areas and changing rooms,” says Ann-Sofie Johansson, who runs her own practice Fotbalans on Södermalm in Stockholm.
8 questions and answers from Ann-Sofie Johansson – medical podiatrist
With knowledge, it becomes easier to prevent and treat the warts. Here are the tips and advice you need.
Who gets warts?
“Most people get warts at some point in their lives. Warts are a human papillomavirus (HPV). It is the own immune system that fights viruses. This means that people with a reduced or not fully developed immune system have an increased risk of infection. It may be about an underlying medical condition. Children and young people have not yet developed their immune system fully, which means that they are more easily affected.”
How are warts contagious?
“Through direct or indirect skin contact – for example via damp floors and towels shared by several people. Shower areas in gyms, as well as gymnasiums, swimming pools and bathrooms are usually common sources of infection. When the skin is moist and loosened – or very dry with cracks – the virus penetrates the skin barrier more easily. The incubation period is 2–6 months, so it can be a long time before the wart appears.”
Where on the body do you get warts?”
Warts are most common on the feet and hands. On the hands, the infected skin cells are allowed to grow freely upwards, which causes warts on the hands to bulge out. Warts under the feet are constantly trampled down by body weight. They don’t stand out that much, but feel rather flat. However, they can be pressure sore.”
How do you know if you have been affected?
“Contrary to what you think, it is not always easy to spot warts, especially on the feet. A tip is that people in the family help each other to check the soles of the feet from time to time. They appear as raised round skin thickenings, often with small red or black dots, which are coagulated small blood vessels. On the fingers, they are usually easier to see.”
Are warts dangerous?
“No, warts are not dangerous, but they are experienced by many as a bit unpleasant. Especially the ones under the feet as they can be sore to walk and run with. In addition, the warts can infect others. Therefore, it is important to try to get rid of them.”
How to treat the warts?
“There are several different methods. But the most common involve applying an acid to the wart, for example salicylic acid, to try to loosen the infected skin cells. The wart, which usually lies deep in the skin, is then scraped off. Freezing, which is available as a home treatment, is another method.”
Should you think about anything special when self-treatment?
“Yes, remember that if the wart is large and deep, it may take a little longer to get rid of them. One must equip oneself with patience and be patient. It is very important to read the instructions in the package insert for each preparation in order not to overtreat or damage healthy skin.”
What do you do if it would be difficult to get rid of the warts?
“If you have tried a preparation for a long time and it does not help, you can wait a few weeks and then try another method. By using wart remedies, the skin is stimulated and the immune system is activated to deal with the wart. If you have a strong immune system, the body takes care of the wart more easily. Medical podiatrists have knowledge and experience in wart treatment. Feel free to turn to one of these in more difficult cases, if you have not succeeded on your own”, concludes Ann-Sofie Johansson.