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Skin Care and Diseases

Warts? (not genital)

07/05/2000

Question:

I am a 52-year old female. Lately, I have noticed tiny little bumps on my feet and legs; they look like miniscule warts. It isn`t a rash. What is it and what can I do to clear this up?

Answer:

There are at least 100 different human papillomaviruses. The most common are type 1 commonly found on the feet; types 2, 3, and 5 which are more commonly found on the hands, arms, and legs; and then the rest which are randomly found in various areas with various implications. When individuals find warts on their legs it most frequently occurs from self innoculation of warts on the soles of your feet to your razor, and as you shave your legs the virus is implanted into the skin. These warts tend to spread slowly in time and with each shave more areas are innoculated and new small lesions appear.

Treatment for these warts can be extended and difficult. Some physicians use an electric needle, some use liquid nitrogen, some use lasers, and some combine these with the use of topical immune-augmenting agents that improve the body`s immune response against warts. The use of topical salicylic acid and other wart removers that are obtained over-the-counter have, in my experience, been uniformly ineffective against this kind of wart growth problem.

The source of the original virus is not always readily apparent. Warts on the feet are frequently contracted at gyms, around swimming pools, and just going barefooted outdoors. Occasionally other members of the family bring plantar warts into the home and innoculate the floors, particularly the bathroom facilities. If the virus has been brought into the home it may be very difficult to eradicate the problem completely.

Given the recent onset of your process I would urge that you visit your local dermatologist to get a very accurate diagnosis to be sure that these are warts. If they are indeed warts you should rely upon that individual`s judgement about the appropriate method of treating the clinical growth and giving you medication that may make your immune system bring the rest of the lesions under control.

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Response by:

Charles L Heaton, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati