It may seem odd, but what causes warts is actually a virus. So if you have a wart, it means you’ve come in contact with HPV, or the human papillomavirus.
There are over 100 different strains of HPV and each different strain tends to cause warts to develop in particular areas of the body, such as on the hands. However, some strains are known to cause warts in multiple areas of the body.
How Do You Get Warts?
For starters, there’s usually no way of knowing exactly when you came into contact with the HPV virus because it has incubation period of up to nine months. This means it can take several months after the initial exposure before the first wart ever develops on your skin.
Like other viruses, HPV is contagious. This means it can spread from person to person, usually via direct skin-to-skin contact, such as a handshake.
But since viruses can live outside of the body, especially in warm, moist environments, it’s possible for HPV to be transmitted in other ways besides human contact. For instance, skin contact with towels, pool areas, locker or shower room floors are all places you could potentially be exposed to HPV.
Once contact is made, the virus typically invades the body through a cut, scratch or other tiny break in the skin. At that point, the virus causes the cells in the top layer of your skin to grow too fast, which eventually leads to a wart.
Is Everyone at Risk of Developing Warts?
In short, yes.
Again, given that the cause of warts is a virus, our chances of coming into contact with it at some point are extremely high. This is not only due to the high prevalence of the virus itself, but also because of the relative ease at which it enters the body.
But this is not to say that everyone who is exposed to the virus will eventually develop warts on their skin.
Most doctors believe this is due to differences in our immune strength and functioning. That is, most of us with healthy immune systems will develop antibodies in our systems, which will kill off the virus before it has a chance to cause warts.
On the other hand, children or others with lowered immune efficiency are more likely to see warts develop once infected with the virus.
What You Can Do to Prevent Warts
It’s important to realize that there are things you can do to reduce the chances of getting warts.
As with the prevention of most common illnesses, the first key is simply to thoroughly and regularly wash your hands. You’d be surprised at the number of people that still don’t heed this basic medical advice.
Secondly, avoid walking barefoot in highly trafficked public areas, such as pools, gym locker rooms, or shower rooms. Instead, always wear a pair of rubber shoes. Flip-flops work great for this purpose.
Also, avoid open cuts, scrapes and nicks on your skin. This includes keeping your skin moisturized to keep fissures or cracks from developing. It also includes using fresh razors because this decreases the chance of tearing or cutting the skin while shaving.
Lastly, for all you nail bitters out there, now is as good as time as ever to break yourself of the habit because it can create openings in the skin where the virus can infiltrate.
Will My Wart Go Away on Its Own if Left Untreated?
Yes, but it may take months, or even years.
More importantly, since warts can easily spread to other parts of your body or to other people, it’s best to treat them right away.
Notice I said right away. This is perhaps the most important advice I can give you in this article. The first time you notice a wart on your body is also the best time to start treating it. Don’t wait!
Of course, not every treatment option works the same for everyone, so if you have tried a particular method in the past that didn’t work, try something else. None of us has to “live” with warts.
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