So there you are, minding your own business, when you notice a wart somewhere on your body. Your arm, your hand, your face – they can come up anywhere. What should you do now? The good news is that, even though warts aren’t the most pleasant things to deal with, they are very treatable and just the product of a simple virus. HPV, the virus behind warts, isn’t something you get from being dirty, and isn’t a fungus, despite what many people think. In reality, any normal person can contract HPV.
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HPV – What Is It?
HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus, is different than bacteria. While bacteria have cellular structure and can thrive on almost any kind of surface, a virus needs a living host in order to survive. HPV can be found thriving in warm, moist conditions like a pool deck, locker room, or shower floor, and is more prevalent when these areas are shared by many people.
Once infected, the virus settles into your epithelial cells, which are in the upper layers of the skin. There it waits until activating, replicating itself and synthesizing wart tissue.
One virus for all warts
HPV is the virus behind all warts on the human body. However, there are over a hundred strains of it. A strain is like a different version of the same virus. For example, strain number 1 of HPV might cause warts in one area of the body, while strain number 6 will cause them somewhere else and in a different severity.
Some of the strains discovered include:
- Strains 16 and 18: These are high-risk that cause genital warts and often lead to cervical cancer
- Strains 6 and 11: Low risk, these strains cause genital warts without an increase in cancer risk.
- Strains 1, 2, 4, 7, 27, 57, 60, and 65: These are low risk strains that cause the common wart.
|Common warts||2, 7|
|Plantar warts||1, 2, 4, 63|
|Flat warts||3, 10, 8|
|Anogenital warts||6, 11, 42, 44 and others|
|Anal lesions||6, 16, 18, 31, 53, 58|
|Epidermodysplasia verruciformis||more than 15 types|
|Focal epithelial hyperplasia (oral)||13, 32|
|Oral papillomas||6, 7, 11, 16, 32|
|Laryngeal papillomatosis||6, 11|
While it sounds strain, you can have HPV but not have any warts to show for it. More details about HPV with no warts can be found here.
How can one virus manifest in so many different ways? Well, a virus can change during replication and create a new strain of it, which is just a slight variation of the same copy. Though it’s base proteins and viral coding remain consistent, there are small changes that cause the virus to present itself in a different way, like with HPV. Some strains produce genital warts, while others only flat warts.
Does that mean I have HPV?
If you have a wart, then yes, you have HPV inside you. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have the sexually transmitted infection that goes by the same name. The strains of HPV that give you a sexual infection will make warts show up anywhere on your genitals and includes areas like the anus and urethra. They have a cauliflower-type appearance to them and usually show up in clusters. This is different than a common wart.
Regardless of the wart’s location, the fact that it’s there means you have HPV in you, whether it’s the sexually transmitted type, or just the kind that causes a regular wart.
Warts Come In Different Types
Whether it’s on your genitals or on your finger, warts come in all kinds of ways.
- Hands: This is one of the most common places to find a wart due to the large amount of surfaces a person touches with their hand. In children, this is an even more common place. Warts can appear alone or in a group, and can range from tiny to the size of an eraser head.
Wear shoes in public showers to help avoid contracting HPV.
- Face: This area is a tricky one. Nobody enjoys have a wart on their face, considering how many people will see it. Most warts on the face are linked to HPV strains that cause flat warts, which are similar to the common wart, just more flat. Good news is that warts on the face can be treated with the same resources as any other area of the body.
- Finger: Warts on the finger are usually the common wart, and can vary in size and shape. When they get large it can be more of a problem, compromising finger dexterity and getting in the way of daily activities like typing, texting, and writing.
Treatment for warts ranges from simple duct tape to invasive surgical excision. There is even a huge range of natural homeopathic remedies to choose from. To learn about how to get rid of HPV warts, click here.
Living With HPV
Don’t worry – just because you’ve got HPV, it doesn’t mean that your quality of life will lessen. But you may have questions.
Are they contagious?
Some warts are contagious, while others are not. Genital warts, caused by specific HPV strains, are very contagious and are spread through skin-on-skin sexual contact. Common warts like you find on your hand are not contagious, meaning that you won’t spread it to someone else just by touching them.
How long will I have them?
The good news is that warts don’t last forever! Although there’s not a cure yet for HPV, the warts that come up because of it can be treated and killed. Depending on the procedure, results can take minutes or they can take weeks.
Usually a wart will die off on its own, over a varying time period. However, if you’ve got a wart that persists and just won’t seem to go away, it’s a good idea to start treatment. You can try at-home kits like salicylic acid liquid or a freezing agent first, which have great rates of success. If those don’t seem to do the trick, doctor’s are always available for more aggressive treatment.
Will they go away without treatment?
When the viral particles in HPV activate and start to reproduce in the epithelial skin layer, they’ll build up a mound of wart cells and keep building until deciding to deactivate and stop. Once it’s done growing, the wart will usually die off by itself, though it may take months, and sometimes even years…
So the next time you think about HPV, don’t get too discouraged. It’s something that billions of people deal with regularly and with all the treatment options available now, doesn’t have to be a burden.