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Warts

All warts are caused by HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and are, therefore, contagious.  There are over 100 known subtypes of HPV and different subtypes usually affect specific skin or mucosal sites. Approximately 7 – 12% of the population gets warts at some time in their life.

Susceptibility is dependent on many factors including one’s genetics, local trauma which may inoculate the virus, atopic dermatitis (genetic eczema) and the strength of one’s immune system.  That said, most people with warts are completely healthy.  Warts sometimes resolve on their own even after being present for years, but they can be chronic and spread to oneself or to other people.  The time frame from being exposed to HPV to the time when a wart presents can be as little as a month or as long as years. Warts can have different clinical presentations and can affect many different areas of the skin and mucosa. Some typical presentations include common warts on the hands and feet and flat warts often found on the bearded area of men or on the legs of women.

Another common presentation of HPV is genital warts. The CDC has estimated that there are more than 20 million people in the U.S. with a history of genital warts.  There are several different HPV subtypes that can affect the genital area.  These subtypes are classified into low, intermediate or high risk HPV subtypes.  The risk pertains to the increased risk in people who have been exposed to these HPV subtypes to subsequently develop cervical, skin, anal, and laryngeal cancers.  There are several vaccines available to immunize both women and men against several genital HPV subtypes.  These vaccines are given only to people who have not yet had exposure to the virus.  They are not given to people who have already had genital warts.