Witches, warlocks, sorcerers and practitioners of black magic traditionally (in literature) are covered with warts. This makes normal people upset if they suddenly develop warts for no discernible reason. There are several unscientific explanations for their sudden appearance, like handling frogs, playing in mud or actually eating it, the â€œevil eyeâ€, curses or jealously.
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For many, warts are an undesirable feature: black magic practitioners have traditionally been depicted to be sporting them
Common warts are small, smooth, flattened and flesh coloured. They can occur in large numbers on the neck, hands, wrists and knees. Delicate sea anemone-like warts are common on the face, especially near the eyelids and lips. The palms and soles develop hard, painful warts, often with multiple black specks in the centre. They are common over pressure points, but unlike corns are not due to unsuitable footwear. Venereal warts occur in the ano-genital area and can grow to the size of a small cauliflower.
Warts are the result of an infection by the human papillovirus (HPV). There are over a hundred types of HPV, explaining the variation in the size, shape and colour of the different types of warts.
All types of warts are spread by contact. Touching a wart may cause the development of a similar lesion on the hands. It can spread in a linear fashion along scratch lines. It can also be spread by using the same towels or clothing. Wet bathroom floors contaminated with the virus can cause the development of warts on the soles of the feet.
Venereal warts are spread by unprotected sexual contact. They are dangerous as they indicate infection with the cancer-causing types (16, 18) of HPV; 95 per cent of the cervical cancers in women are associated with HPV infection. Children born vaginally to women with genital warts are also likely to develop recurring growths on their vocal chords (these are called laryngeal papillomas). These require surgical removal.
Warts are cosmetically disfiguring and may be painful, but (with the exception of venereal warts) are harmless. Warts tend to increase in number and spread all over the body for a limited time. Then suddenly, for no discernable reason, they mysteriously disappear within a few months or sometimes years. This makes almost any treatment, however bizarre, appear effective and successful.
Cures for warts are seeped in folklore. â€œWise eldersâ€ advocate the application of household items like garlic, banana skin, potatoes, tomato juice, vinegar or salt. Sometimes, â€œtreatmentâ€ includes attempts to cut or burn the wart. These methods can be dangerous and painful. They can cause infection and permanent scarring.
The only household remedy to have been effectively studied is â€œduct tape occlusion therapyâ€. This involves the application of duct tape on the skin lesions for a week at a time. The method has a 85 per cent success rate. Medical treatment for warts (except venereal warts) can often be done at home. It involves repeated application of a paste of salicylic acid, catharidin or podophylline. The instructions have to be followed strictly. Treatment may take weeks.
Doctors can freeze and remove the warts with liquid nitrogen, carbon dioxide ice, cryosurgery, loop electrosurgical excision or by using lasers. Warts on the feet require surgical removal. Interferron injections can be used for persistent genital warts. Removal of the warts does not eradicate the virus causing the infection. It persists and warts can reappear in the same place or elsewhere. Immunity eventually develops against the HPV infection, aiding recovery. This fact was used to develop a vaccine against the types of HPV responsible for cervical cancer. The manufacturers advocate three doses, the second one after two months and the third after four months. It is particularly recommended for girls between the ages of 9 and 11 years, before they become sexually exposed to cancer-causing strains of the virus. Trials are now over and the vaccine has been released for use in some countries. It will probably be available in India in 2008.
Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)