Flat warts are probably the most inoffensive members of the already somewhat harmless wart family. They're tiny, smooth, skin-colored spots that can appear in groups on the face, neck or legs. They're termed "flat" because they're usually flush with the skin's surface rather than raised.
Like other kinds of warts, flat warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are many types of HPV, just as there are many types of warts. The varieties of HPV that tend to cause flat warts are HPV 3, 10, 28 and 49. HPV is a common, contagious virus that can be transmitted indirectly. It's most likely to attack an opening in the skin, such as cut or scratch. In fact, flat warts often show up along the same line as a cut.
Flat warts are most common in children and are often called "juvenile warts" as a result. However, they can occur in adults as well. While flat warts can become irritated, the main problem they pose is a cosmetic one. If you find yourself dealing with this problem, check out the following pages to learn how you can get rid of flat warts.
Flat warts can spread across your body. One of the ways they do so is when you shave over an infected area and then nick an uninfected area with the razor. If you have a growth of flat warts in an area where you can tolerate hair growth for a while, you might want to avoid shaving until the outbreak is taken care of. If abstaining from shaving is not an option, try to use new, good-quality razors to minimize nicks.
Another way you can prevent new growths of flat warts is to build up your immune system. Because the warts are caused by the HPV virus, they will stick around until the infection is conquered.
The next treatment method is harder than it sounds.
It's probably hard to ignore any new growth on your skin -- especially if it's on your face. But when it comes to flat warts, waiting may be your best option. For starters, treating existing warts does nothing to stop new warts from forming if the HPV virus that causes them is still active in the body. Once the body's immune system tackles the virus responsible for the outbreak, the warts themselves will soon disappear.
So, if you wait long enough, flat warts will likely go away on their own. This process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Whether you let nature take its course or not depends largely on how long you're willing to wait to rid yourself of warts. If you lean more toward impatience when it comes to clearing up a skin condition, you might want to check out some of quicker treatments on the following pages.
Is there anything duct tape can't fix?
Some studies suggest that using duct tape to remove warts is more effective than freezing them -- although that theory is still up for debate. It's not simply the pulling of the adhesive from the skin that removes warts. It's actually the covering of the warts that treats them.
Researchers believe that using duct tape to cover a wart stimulates an immune response from the body that speeds up healing. Of course, this process doesn't occur immediately. In fact, it can take weeks for the duct tape method to work. And the bad news is that the duct tape needs to stay on the entire time. So if it's appearance you're worried about, this may not be a much better option than waiting the virus out.
The next method of flat wart treatment is more common.
The freezing of flat warts -- or any kind of wart -- has become a very common treatment. And just to ease your mind, it doesn't involve standing in a walk-in freezer or applying ice cubes to your skin.
Freezing warts is accomplished through a practice known as cryotherapy. This medical remedy uses cold temperatures to essentially "burn" off a skin growth. This is a treatment that should only be performed by a physician or qualified skin care specialist, so if you're considering it, it's a good idea to schedule a consultation with a dermatologist first.
Our final recommended treatment for flat warts is on the next page.
On the previous page, we mentioned freezing (or cryotherapy) as a procedure a doctor can perform to help remove flat warts. Another thing a physician can do to help you treat this annoying condition is to offer or recommend medications for it.
There are a number of options when it comes to treating warts pharmaceutically. Some involve prescriptions or medical sessions, while others can be obtained over the counter (OTC). Immunotherapy drugs are a class of medications that can target the HPV virus responsible for your flat wart outbreak, but they are only available by prescription. Injectible medication is a physician-administered treatment.
If you're more of a do-it-yourselfer, you might consider over-the-counter wart treatments. These medications, which often contain salicylic acid, can remove individual warts by dissolving the top layer of skin. This method, however, will not prevent more flat warts from appearing.
If you'd like more skin care tips, check out the next page for lots more information.
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- American Academy of Family Physicians. "Duct Tape More Effective than Cryotherapy for Warts." 2/01/03. (Accessed 8/8/09). http://www.aafp.org/afp/20030201/tips/8.html
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- Warts Information Center. "Flat Warts." (Accessed 8/6/2009) http://www.warts.org/flat-warts.html
- Warts Information Center. "Duct Tape Wart Removal." (Accessed 8/6/2009) http://www.warts.org/duct-tape-wart-removal.html