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Filiform Warts Overview

We convey so many things with our faces. Don't you want yours to be wart-free? See more pictures of skin problems.
©iStockphoto.com/bobbieo

People spend a great deal of time looking at one another's faces. When they talk, they look one another in the eyes. When they share funny stories, they search for smiles and other signs of amusement. When they communicate unpleasant news, they watch for an expression of anger or sadness. Because a person's face draws so much attention, a small wart on the face can be cause for great concern.

Warts are benign growths of skin caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) [source: FamilyDoctor]. When HPV enters the top layer of skin, often through a cut or another opening, the virus causes the skin cells to grow rapidly. The resulting growth is a wart. Warts can appear anywhere, on anyone, at any age. Most often, warts appear during childhood and are less common among elderly people.

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Warts are named based on their appearance and the places where they form. Filiform warts have skin-colored fingerlike projections and most typically form on the face, neck, eyelids and lips [source: Wart Information Center]. However, filiform warts are not limited to the face. They can also crop up in other areas with thin skin tissue, such as armpits and certain areas of the leg [source: Pharmacy Times].

While it can be concerning to discover a filiform wart, it's important to know that they often are not permanent and certain treatments can help get rid of them. Although no cure exists for the wart-causing human papillomavirus at this time, there are treatments that remove problematic warts as they appear.

First, let's learn what causes the growth of warts.

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Filiform warts are caused by the transmission of the human papillomavirus (HPV). More than 100 strains of HPV exist but only a few cause filiform warts [source: Merck]. Common forms of HPV transmission include:

  • Touch -- HPV (and warts) can spread between people when one person touches a wart or an HPV-infected area on another person. It can also spread from one area of the body to another when a person first touches an infected area, then touches another part of his or her body. HPV can spread especially quickly through areas of broken skin [source: Mayo Clinic].
  • Shared clothing -- HPV can spread through clothing, towels and other fabrics that have come into contact with a wart or another infected area [source: Mayo Clinic].
  • Contact through objects -- HPV can live in environments such as shower floors, concrete surrounding pools and even shoes [source: University of Toronto]. Contact with HPV left behind on these surfaces can lead to transmission of the virus.

Not everyone who comes into contact with HPV will develop warts. Some people are more likely than others to develop warts after contact with HPV. Cuts and abrasions that allow HPV to get under the skin's protective barrier can increase the chance of wart growth. Those with weak immune systems are more susceptible to developing warts than those who experience prolonged, repeated exposure to HPV. Sometimes, people can come into direct contact with HPV, and even carry and transmit the virus themselves, but never get a wart.

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People who develop filiform warts have several options for treatment and removal. Although many home remedies and medicines are well-advertised, the best option is always to consult with a doctor first. Read on to find out why.

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Because filiform warts often manifest on the face, medical professionals advise against the use of over-the-counter wart removal products that can damage fragile neck and facial tissues. Doctors recommend several other effective treatments for removing filiform warts.

Salicylic acids can be applied to the skin to get rid of wards. These acids are thought to prompt the body's immune system to fight off the virus [source: The Merck Manual]. When the skin becomes irritated, the body sends white blood cells to combat the virus. This method can require several applications to achieve complete wart removal, so doctors often favor other methods in order to protect the delicate skin where most filiform warts grow.

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In cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen is applied to the infected skin to freeze off the wart. The freezing causes a blister to form. To prevent infection, the blister can be covered with a bandage, and after a week, the patient can remove the dead skin. Generally, cryotherapy requires one to four treatments over the course of one or more weeks to remove all traces of the wart [source: WebMD]. Similar to cryotherapy (but less cold), Cantharidin is an application that causes your skin to blister. Once the blister dries up, the doctor removes the dead wart tissue [source: The Mayo Clinic].

If you've got a stubborn wart, minor surgery could do the trick. This involves a doctor using a scalpel or electric needle and a local anesthetic to remove the wart. Surgical removal is quick and may only require one treatment. However, depending on the size of the wart, scarring may occur [source: The Mayo Clinic].

Laser removal is another form of surgical removal in which a directed laser beam is used to remove the wart tissue. This option can be expensive and usually leaves a scar, so it's reserved for warts that are especially difficult to remove [source: The Mayo Clinic].

With the treatment options available today, warts need not be a permanent cause for concern. To treat and remove filiform warts, you only need to phone your doctor to discuss several viable options.

To learn more, visit the links on the next page.

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Related HowStuffWorks Articles

Sources

  • FamilyDoctor.org. "Warts." (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/skin/disorders/209.html
  • The MayoClinic.org. "Common Warts: Causes." (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/common-warts/DS00370/DSECTION=causes
  • The MayoClinic.org. "Common Warts: Treatment and Drugs." (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/common-warts/DS00370/DSECTION=treatments%2Dand%2Ddrugs
  • The Merck Manual. "Warts." (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec10/ch122/ch122c.html
  • Peace Health. "Warts and Plantar Warts." (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.peacehealth.org/kbase/topic/major/hw64902/descrip.htm
  • Pharmacy Times. "Current Options for the Treatment of Warts." (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.pharmacytimes.com/issue/pharmacy/2005/2005-09/2005-09-9823
  • University of Toronto. "Warts: What Are Warts?" (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.healthservice.utoronto.ca/Health-Promotion/Health-Tips!/Skin-Health-Information/Warts.htm
  • Wart Information Center. "Filiform Warts." (Accessed August 4, 2009) http://www.warts.org/filiform-warts.html
  • WebMD. "Cryotherapy for Warts." (Accessed August 4, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/cryotherapy-for-warts

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