Warts are skin growths caused by infections by the human papilloma virus (HPV), in the top layer of skin. These growths are contagious; infection can be passed by skin contact and from touching infected objects. Warts can appear anywhere but are most common the hands and feet. They are hard, rough bumps that often resemble a cauliflower and can be a variety of colors.

There are actually several different types of warts that affect the skin, and include the following:

* Common wart (Verruca vulgaris): raised wart with roughened surface, most common on hands and knees

* Flat wart (Verruca plana): small, smooth flattened wart, tan or flesh coloured, most common on the face, neck, hands, wrists and knees and in large numbers

* Filiform or Digitate wart: a thread- or finger-shaped wart, most commonly appearing on the face, especially near the eyelids and lips

* Plantar wart (verruca, Verruca pedis): a hard lump which often has multiple black specks in the center; generally found on pressure points on the soles of the feet.

* Mosaic wart: a group of tightly clustered plantar-type warts, commonly on the hands or soles of the feet

There are several direct methods doctors use to treat warts. The most common include:

* Keratolysis, which is removal of dead surface skin cells. This is usually done by applying salicylic acid, blistering agents, or formaldehyde.

* Cryosurgery, which involves freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen

* Surgical curettage (scraping) of the wart.

* Laser treatment.

* Application of Cantharidin, which is a chemical derived from the green blister beetle. The cantharidin causes the skin under the wart to blister, lifting the wart off the skin.

There are also several over-the-counter options available, including:

* Salicylic acid, which comes in the form of adhesive pads treated with salicylic acid or in a solution form. To treat warts using salicylic acid, the affected area must first be cleaned throughly before applying the acid. The resulting dead skin must be cleared away with a pumice stone or emery board, and the process repeated until the wart is removed. It can take several weeks of treatment to remove the wart.

* Silver nitrate which is available as a caustic pencil. This method generally takes three to six daily treatments to be effective.

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