An introduction to filiform warts
Filiform warts are named after their ‘finger like’ appearance and are sometimes considered the most physically unattractive blemish out of the entire wart family.
This might be due to their propensity for growing around the facial area, as they often develop around the lips and eyelids, although they can appear in other areas of the body such as the legs and armpits.
However, unlike traditional warts, filiform warts protrude out of the skin and can develop surprisingly fast compared to other skin infections of a similar nature.
This, combined with their physical appearance, usually makes filiform warts a strong source of emotional distress for sufferers, sometimes impacting their self-esteem and confidence due to their highly visible appearance.
The causes of filiform warts
The HPV virus will usually be the primary cause of any wart outbreak, however there are a number other factors to consider when discussing the viral infection, including lifestyle aspects such as diet and stress. You might benefit from understanding how these issues affect your chances of catching the condition, and recognise how they might hold the key to reducing your wart symptoms.
- HPV virus: The HPV virus is infamous as a potential trigger of cervical cancer; however it is also a leading cause of warts. The virus normally works by entering the immune system and irritating the keratinocytes, stimulating an overproduction of the tough protein keratin, which manifests on the surface of the skin. A healthy person with a strong immune system will typically be able to fight off the infection, but those who have a weak or underdeveloped immune system will not be able to muster the same response and the virus will thrive. Although many young girls are now inoculated against the specific HPV strains that are responsible for cancer, there are possibly hundreds of noncancerous variants of the HPV virus that are still able to penetrate their immune system, infecting them with warts. In the case of filiform warts, skin lesions are usually caused by the HPV-1 and HPV-2 subtypes of the virus, although strains such as HPV-27 and HPV-29 have also been known to instigate the condition
- Weak immune system: Your immune system is extremely important when it comes to warding off viral infections, such as the flu, the common cold or even the HPV virus. If you have a strong immune system, an encounter with the HPV virus will probably result in little to no symptoms as your body will be able to shrug off the infection before it has a chance to manifest on your skin. This is why warts are so prevalent in children, teenagers and those with a pre-existing health condition like anaemia, psychological stress or HIV. Their immune systems are either impaired or too immature to be able to cope with the virus and their immune cells will struggle to recognise the HPV virus, let alone be competent enough to try and defend the rest of your body against infection. Maintaining your immune system is imperative and you should look to your lifestyle habits for answers, by taking steps to improve your diet and lower your stress levels
- Poor nutrition: The importance of maintaining your immune system has already been recognised, but what you might not realise is how dependant your immune function is on your diet. The nutrients that you ingest from your food work to keep your immune system healthy, by nourishing skin cells, supporting blood circulationand aiding digestion. If your diet lacks these nutrients, it can result in a health condition like anaemia or malnutrition, making you more vulnerable to an episode of filiform warts. What you eat also has the power to exhaust your immune system. If your diet is saturated with refined sugars, caffeine and processed fats, it will result in your immune system being forced to release more inflammatory chemicals like histamine. Eventually your body will struggle to keep up with the demand of producing these chemicals and your immune cells will become fatigued, with other parts of your body like your liver function, digestion and skin also paying the price for your unhealthy diet
- Stress: Filiform warts can be extremely unpleasant to experience and often provoke a psychological response. The nature of the infection means that you have nasty looking, fleshy coloured growths protruding from the skin around your face, neck or possibly legs. Unlike common warts, periungual wart or even flat warts, these lesions are very difficult to conceal and can be a serious blow to your self-esteem. Nevertheless, stressful emotions can exaggerate your physical symptoms by crippling your immune system and other areas of your body. In an episode of stress, your sympathetic nervous system with trigger your ‘fight or flight’ reflexes, causing your immune system to respond as though you are in a life-threatening situation. It will produce more inflammatory chemicals in preparation for physical activity and your blood pressure will rise. Your pulse will also increase and you may experience some digestive issues like constipation, as your body will not be interested in trying to perform basic functions that do not pertain to saving your life. Now imagine that this process is repeated every time you feel upset or anxious and it becomes easy to pinpoint how stress can exhaust your immune system, prolonging a bout of warts
- Direct contact: Unfortunately the HPV virus is contagious and often you can contract the illness simply by coming into direct contact with an infected party. Children are a prime example for how the disease can spread, with schools often suffering from outbreaks of verrucas or other forms of the disease. These children then go home and pass the infection on to their parents and the whole household can suffer as a result. This is why it is essential to consider carefully who you have prolonged physical exposure to and to be aware of other people if you, your self are suffering from the virus
- Indirect contact: Indirect contact is one of the most common ways that the HPV virus is contracted, with secondary objects such as towels, clothes, razors and face cloths often harbouring the infection. In filiform warts, even sharing the same skin cream as another person can cause the disease to spread so it is important to be mindful of other people’s belongings. The environment that you inhabit can also play an influential role as well as HPV can survive and thrive on moist surfaces such as changing room flowers or communal showers, so it might be worthwhile taking precautions if you are going to be spending any length of time in these areas.
The symptoms of filiform warts
The symptoms of filiform warts are difficult to ignore and can be extremely irritating, often having unfortunate an unfortunate psychological impact on the sufferer. If you are experiencing any pain or notice that your warts are worsening, you should speak to your doctor immediately just in case.
- Rough skin: Rough skin in the surrounding area of a wart is common a symptom usually caused by excessive amounts of the hard protein keratin. In warts, your skin can become dry very easily, often making it appear discoloured and irritated to the naked eye. The surface of your wart can also feel ragged and uneven as keratin is a toughened protein, often producing brittle and hard flakes of skin
- Fleshy protrusions: It has already been mentioned that filiform warts are quite distinctive compared to other wart variants. This is because filiform warts protrude from an affected area, and pale growths can even develop from the head of the wart itself. It is this particular symptom that often results in stress and other psychological symptoms as it is very difficult to effectively conceal filiform warts
- Clotted blood vessels: Clotted blood vessels are a normal symptom of warts and typically manifest as a small, dart dot in the centre of your wart. A blood vessel can rupture, allowing blood plasma to leak into the surrounding tissues, causing slight irritation and inflammation. This symptom is not considered to be serious though, and will usually diminish with the rest of the wart
- Itchiness: Itchiness can be an aggravating symptom of filiform warts, usually caused by the protrusion of the wart on sensitive areas of skin such as the face. Be aware though, scratching your wart will only damage your skin and make it easier for the HPV virus to linger, increasing your risk of contracting a secondary bacterial infection. Try to resist the urge to peel your wart and instead consider finding a solution that will be able to ease your discomfort
- Stress: Stress is a psychological symptom closely attached to any visible skin condition; however filiform warts can take a serious toll on your confidence and self-esteem. The unattractive protrusions growing out of your skin can make you feel more self-conscious in public situations and you may feel anxious at the idea of socialising, apprehensive about how the people around you will react when they notice your affliction. However, the detrimental effects of stress on the immune system have already been discussed so it is vital that you find a way of managing this symptom before it prolongs your outbreak of warts.
Home remedies are often a go-to measure for most wart sufferers who are desperate to rid themselves of their affliction. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of natural treatments available, some of which have been in use for centuries! However, it is important to consult your GP if you notice any changes in your symptoms or if you feel as though your condition is worsening.
- Relax: Stress can have an extremely negative effect on your immune system so you should be doing all you can to try and remain calm. The best thing you can do during this time is simply be kind to yourself. Makes sure that you are taking some time out from your routine to relax and indulge in activities that you find enjoyable. A steaming hot bath and a good book can work wonders on your stress levels, while a brisk walk in the sun can also promote the release of your happy hormones, endorphins. If you are interested in learning breathing techniques to keep yourself focused in pressured situations, you could always try taking up yoga or mediation. These exercises are brilliant at teaching you how to overcome the impulses of your body using your mind and would be great at lowering your anxiety levels during an episode of warts
- Good nutrition: Like it or not, your diet is a key factor to consider when trying to reduce your chances of contracting the HPV virus. If you consume vast quantities of refined sugars, alcohol, processed fats and caffeine, you will be seriously harming your immune system, putting yourself at risk of developing warts. Instead, try to limit your intake of these products and go for healthier alternative instead. Most fruits and vegetables are rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins A, B, C, D and E, as well as minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium. You should try and find ways of incorporating these foods into your meals and work on increasing your intake of water. Dehydration can be very bad for your general health and wellbeing, so make sure you are drinking plenty of plain water every day – remember that alcoholic and caffeinated fizzy drinks do not count as proper fluids and can even work as diuretics!
- Avoid direct and indirect contact: It might seem a bit obvious, but if you want to avoid catching the HPV virus, you should take care when interacting with carriers of the infection. Prolonged physical contact would be extremely inadvisable and you should also take into account that it isn’t just skin that the infection can live on – inanimate objects and surfaces can also house the virus temporarily until it finds another human host. This means that you should try not to share any items of clothing with an infected party and definitely avoid using the same razor or skin cream. Another clear breeding ground for the infection is public changing rooms, particularly if they are associated with a leisure centre or swimming pool. This warm, damp environment can act as the ideal breeding ground for the disease, so remember to take flip-flops with you and not to share towels. In the case of filiform warts, it might also be an idea to avoid touching the affected area of your skin – if you are suffering from a wart outbreak on your face, you can easily spread it to other areas of your body via your hands!
- Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is very popular as a home remedy for most common skin conditions, including warts. The liquid’s high acidic and anti-bacterial properties make it well suited for treating filiform warts as the substance is capable of dissolving any excess keratin, breaking down the wart until it peels away from the skin. You can also take apple cider vinegar internally to support your immune system so it might be worthwhile finding a way of incorporating it into your diet. Apple cider vinegar products can be found online at Your Health Food Store if you are curious about this option
- Thuja cream: Thuja is a type of evergreen tree commonly grown in North America and parts of East Asia. Extracts of the plant are frequently used in a variety of treatments for skin conditions such as warts. Your Health Food Store is home to an array of topical thuja based ointments and might be worthwhile considering if you wish to try this solution. Just make sure you follow any directions exactly, and do not attempt the treatment if you are breastfeeding or pregnant
- Potatoes: There might not be a significant amount of scientific research to support this remedy, but potatoes have been involved with the treatment of warts for centuries and are still a go-to option for many sufferers. You can try this method by either rubbing your wart with half a potato or applying some of the peel to the affected area of the skin. It is believed that the chemicals and potassium levels in the potato have the capacity to dissolve and remove a wart, leaving your skin free of any damage or blemish
- Horseradish juice: Another unusual remedy for warts, horseradish juice is believed to ease the redness and discolouration associated with facial warts, diminishing their appearance. You can try this solution by mixing a teaspoon of salt with a little horseradish juice and applying to the wart topically, leaving the skin lesion to soak for around twenty minutes before washing off.1
The following herbal remedies that have been recommended are aimed at treating both the external and internal symptoms of warts. If you feel as though these treatments are not working or are making your symptoms worse, then please speak to your doctor as soon as possible for further advice.
- Neem cream: Neem is a type of tree native to India and has been used in herbal remedies for centuries, usually to ease or alleviate cases of dry, damaged skin. When it comes to warts, Neem Cream can be applied topically to hydrate brittle or dry skin, relieving any associated irritation or itchiness. However, this remedy may not be suitable for those who suffer from nut allergies and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers
- Echinaforce®: Echinaforce® is made using organic extracts of Echinacea, a flowering plant often used in herbal remedies to strengthen the immune system against viral infections like the flu or common cold. This solution should work to alleviate the internal issues that are responsible for triggering a wart outbreak, whilst also energising your immune cells and promoting proper immune function.
There are a variety of convention medicines available to help you ease and reduce your external wart symptoms, however almost none of these treatments are interested in exploring and combatting the underlying cause of your ailment – the HPV virus.
This can put traditional medication at a disadvantage as it will not prevent the virus from returning in the future, or stop your warts from continuously reappearing. Nevertheless, it is still important that you speak to your doctor about any concerns that you may have, particularly if you notice that your symptoms are worsening.
- Topical creams: There are a range of topical creams that are available over the counter and work to remove or reduce the physical appearance of your wart. These solutions can be beneficial if you are concerned about the visibility of your skin condition, but they will not work to tackle the underlying cause of your warts, the HPV virus. This means that while they might be an effective short-term treatment, they will not prevent your warts from reoccurring in the future
- Salicylic acid: Although most pharmaceutical wart creams contain high amounts of salicylic acid, the cream prescribed by your doctor is likely to be much more concentrated that the products available over the counter. However, the ointment suffers from the same fatal flaw as most conventional remedies – it is more concerned with removing the physical symptoms than treating the internal causes
- Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy will only be considered if your warts episode has been particularly nasty or prolonged, and will definitely not be recommended for young children due to the uncomfortable and sometimes painful nature of the procedure. Liquid nitrogen will be applied to your skin lesion, destroying the infected skin cells and freezing your wart straight off. However, the treatment does have its drawbacks and can sometimes even cause permanent scarring. This, and the fact that you may require multiple rounds of the procedure, should make you consider this option very carefully
- Laser surgery: Laser surgery is often used in the treatment of facial warts but it will only become an option for you if other conventional methods have failed. A concentrated beam of light is implemented in the procedure to burn away your warts and any other infected cells. As with most other conventional methods, this will only relieve your external problem and will not reduce your susceptibility to the HPV virus.