An introduction to the causes of warts
Warts are extremely common, and while the underlying causes will always be linked to the HPV virus, there are a number of other factors that can make you more susceptible to contracting the infection.
Your immune system plays a crucial role in defending your body against viral infections, which is why it is often connected to the causes of warts. Direct or indirect contact with an infected party will also provide an opportunity for the HPV virus to spread into your system, stimulating the production of keratin.
The human papilloma virus is estimated to affect at least 50% of sexually active adults and can be associated with health conditions, such as genital warts, common warts and even some forms of cervical cancer.1
In the case of common warts, the HPV virus works by inhabiting the mucous membranes of your skin and triggering an overproduction of the hard protein keratin. Keratin is a tough protein that can be found in hair follicles, nails and the skin. It is produced by cells known as keratinocytes, and helps to maintain the structural integrity of the skin.
When too much keratin is made, it can start to harden, forming a toughened lump on the surface of our skin, known as a wart. Although the HPV virus is contagious, it usually affects those with a weakened immune system, entering the body through skin lesions or open wounds.
Weak immune system
Think of the immune system as your body’s first line of defence against invading pathogens, with your immune cells acting as highly trained soldiers, attacking and eliminating potential infections and diseases.
When your immune system is weakened, these cells become sluggish and confused, unable to keep viral infections like the HPV virus from spreading.
Warts can be particularly tricky for the immune system to combat anyway, as they often linger in the epidermal layer of skin, making it difficult for the immune cells to recognise and attack the virus.2
This is why the condition usually affects those with an autoimmune disease such as HIV, an existing health condition like hypothyroidism or young children who possess an immature immune system - their bodies are less likely to identify the virus in time and cannot muster an effective resistance.
It is vital then, that you do as much as possible to support and maintain your immune system, especially if you suffer from any of these illnesses.
Your diet is crucial when it comes to supporting and maintaining your immune system, especially if you suffer from a pre-existing health condition like anaemia.
If your diet contains high amounts of processed fats, refined sugars and caffeine, then it will be placing an enormous amount of strain on your immune and digestive system.
Foods rich in histamine and other inflammatory chemicals can over-stimulate the immune system, forcing it to produce more and more chemicals, making it become fatigued and exhausted. When this happens, it is less likely to identify threats like the HPV virus, allowing for the spread of warts.
A weakened immune system can also affect the general health of our skin, with malnutrition contributing dry, oily or sensitive skin, making it easier for the HPV virus to permeate the epidermis and enter the body.
Stress is another major culprit to consider when pondering a defective immune system.When you feel as though you are under a great deal of pressure, it can cause a ‘flight or fight’ response from your immune system.
This stimulates the release of inflammatory chemicals like histamine and redirects nutrients away from the skin to other areas of the body. When this primordial state is constantly being trigged, your immune system will eventually become exhausted, with your digestive system being interrupted, causing constipation and poor liver function.
The HPV virus will be able to run rampant throughout your body and your immune system will lack the ability to effectively restrain or attack the virus, leading into an episode of warts.
If you were ever a frequent visitor of your local swimming pool as a child, the chances are that you’ve already experienced an episode of plantar warts, or verruca. This particular type of wart is commonly contracted in communal showering areas and wet surfaces.
You do not have to directly touch an infected person; instead the virus can linger outside of the body, on inanimate objects that have touched the host’s body. This makes it imperative that you avoid sharing towels or clothing with a suffering party, and remember to wear flip flops in damp communal areas, like at a sauna or gym.
Arguably the main cause of contracting the HPV virus is coming into direct contact with a person already suffering from the infection. Exposing your skin to the affected party, such as shaking hands or embracing can increase your risk of catching the virus.
Therefore, it might be advisable to keep your skin covered and to wear gloves when possible to avoid direct contact. If you are concerned about your child, encourage them to keep covered up and if they are already infected, it might be just as well keeping them off school until the virus has cleared up to avoid contaminating their classmates.