Most people will experience getting a wart at one point or another. But why are athletes especially susceptible to getting warts? Let’s talk through what causes warts and discuss the different wart removal options.
Warts are growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus enters the skin through tiny breaks and lives in the outermost layer, causing rough, bumpy growths. Warts are typically slightly lighter or darker than the color of the surrounding skin. Sometimes they have black dots in them, which are clotted blood vessels at the base of the wart.
Warts often appear on the hands and feet but can show up anywhere on the body, including the face or genitals. When found on the feet, they’re called plantar warts. Warts are extremely contagious, and genital warts are a symptom of HPV, a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer.
While athletes don’t naturally get warts any more than everyone else, the issue is that they often go unnoticed and then rapidly spread. Whereas most people would notice a rough growth, especially on the feet, athletes often have calluses around the feet that cause things like plantar warts to be overlooked. When warts are missed, they often spread, and not just on the athlete’s body but from person to person.
Often, the sharing of gym equipment, mats and flooring, showers, and locker rooms means that warts spread much more quickly among athletes. For this reason, it’s recommended that gym equipment and mats are thoroughly wiped down and disinfected after each use and that flip flops or other shoes are worn around locker rooms, pools, and showers.
There are several wart removal options -- some of which can be administered at home, others that require in-office treatment. OTC treatments should only be used after getting properly diagnosed by a dermatologist to ensure that the treatment is appropriate for the wart. Most of these OTC products have the ingredient salicylic acid, which dries up the wart and sloughs off the dead skin, but care must be taken not to irritate or harm the surrounding skin.
In-office wart removal includes cryotherapy, or freezing with liquid nitrogen. After freezing, the skin thaws and the dead skin containing the wart falls off. Electrodesiccation and curettage are other wart removal treatments that involve cutting out the wart or destroying it with an electric needle. And finally, laser surgery works by emitting a narrow beam of light that vaporizes blood vessels supplying the wart.
It’s important to note that genital warts or HPV can be prevented with a vaccine. Two HPV vaccines, Cervarix (made by GlaxoSmithKline) and Gardasil (made by Merck), are effective at preventing genital warts and are recommended for preteens.
Got a stubborn wart and want to get it checked out? If you’re in the greater New York City area, contact Vanguard Dermatology today for an appointment with one of our board-certified dermatologists, who can properly diagnose the wart and then perform any wart removal treatment necessary.