Warts are small growths on the skin caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is everywhere and can spread from person to person through direct contact. It usually enters the skin through a cut or scratch, incubates for a few months, and then a wart develops in that area. Multiple warts occur if you transfer the virus to a new site by picking at the wart and then touch broken skin elsewhere on your body'.
Warts are usually painless and appear as greyish, cauliflower-like growths. They can be as tiny as a pinhead or slightly larger.
Types of warts include:
- Common warts, which show up just about anywhere, particularly on the hands and feet.
- Plantar warts, which grow inward on the soles of the feet, often causing pain on pressure.
- Flat warts, which are often found on the arms or face.
- "Mosaic" warts, which appear as many tiny warts all over the soles of the feet.
- Genital warts, which can appear in tiny clusters or spread into a large area in the genital or anal area.
There are over 100 different strains of HPV. Some strains, called "high-risk" HPV strains, don't cause warts, but rather cause cervical cancer, penile cancer, vulvar cancer, and anal cancer. HPV is among the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections. In women, we know that persistent HPV infections are responsible for causing changes in the cervix, which often leads to cervical dysplasia (abnormal changes in the cervix) or cervical cancer.
There is currently no cure for HPV, but if your immune system is working properly, the warts often go away on their own. However, it may take time - sometimes months or even years. There are treatments available for visible warts, including liquid nitrogen cryosurgery and products containing salicylic acid and/or podophyllotoxin (found naturally in a medicinal herb called Podophyllum peltatum). Two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, are available as a prevention against infections from a few "high-risk" HPV strains that cause cervical/genital cancers and genital warts. These are targeted at young women and men before they become sexually active. All sexually active women should have a PAP smear done annually to detect for any abnormal changes in the cervix.
The IMI Approach
IMI can help to:
- Strengthen your immune system to reduce risk of infection
- Support your immune system to shorten the duration of a wart outbreak
- Treat cervical dysplasia using natural medicines
- Provide integrative therapies in cancer care