Periungual Warts: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Warts bring discomfort, both physical and psychological. The latter condition results from the warts’ impact on skin appearance. Warts have different names based on where they manifest themselves on the body. We discuss here periungual warts, their causes, and how you can treat, remove, and prevent these warts.

What Is a Periungual Wart?

A periungual wart assumes a bumpy or cauliflower appearance around the nails. Initially, they measure the size of a pinpoint, almost invisible. At their infancy, these warts have a shiny or translucent look and a smooth texture. Over time, the rough and bumpy traits become present, and the areas of the warts become inflamed.

Aside from appearance, consequences of these warts include discomfort and, in some cases, significant pain. The irritations result when the warts push the nails upward. When warts form under the nail, also known as the epidural region of the nail (hyponychium), the nail can become separated from the skin. Herein lies the source of the more serious pain.

warts illustration

Periungual Warts Causes

Warts, in general, come from HPV, known by its longer name of human papillomavirus. Different strains, numbering at least 100, of the virus yield different types of warts. Certain ones, especially HPV 6 and 11, cause warts in the vagina, anus, and other genital areas. A periungual wart comes from HPV 1, 2, or 4.

The fact that you touch your genitals with hands infected by periungual warts normally does not lead to genital warts. The strands that cause periungual warts do not thrive as a general rule around the genitalia, groin, or anus.

Openings around the nail allow HPV to enter and infect. Cuts, splits, and peeling skin around the nails create the spaces. Patients with low immune systems especially find themselves at risk. As a fairly contagious virus, HPV can readily infect through the sharing of razors, towels, washcloths, bar soaps, and other personal care items. Toys often contribute to these warts in children, along with towels, soaps, and other items that cause the warts in adults.

Periungual Wart Signs

Most physicians can diagnose a periungual wart based on the appearance. When sufficiently developed, warts look like cauliflower tops. You will notice in the area some dark spots, which represent small capillaries.

Warts interrupt the lines that run across the tips of your fingers. This is similar to the plantar warts that affect the feet. Whenever you see the skin lines continue through the area of a lesion or bump, you have some condition other than a wart.

Other symptoms include pain, raised nails, deformities in the nails or cuticle, split skin, and bleeding in the area of the nails.

Inflammation at the base of the nails serves as a precursor to paronychia. This condition, while a by-product of the HPV that produces a periungual wart, actually results from bacteria that intrudes through openings in the nail structure. Hairdressers, bartenders, and nurses face elevated risks of getting chronic, or long-lasting, paronychia due to constant exposure to wet environments that breed the bacteria.

Periungual Wart Treatment

Periungual wart treatment involves the use of chemicals and advanced technology. The status of salicylic acid as the treatment of choice comes from the chemical’s ability to both eliminate the wart and kill the HPV virus. These results, though, come gradually. A typical course of salicylic acid treatment takes up to 12 weeks. Although the acid can be obtained over-the-counter, you might find the services or advice of a physician a better approach.

Cryotherapy aims to cause the wart to scab and fall on its own, so avoid scratching or pulling. Nitrogen is the main component in cryotherapy. This surgical technique freezes warts through the application of nitrogen. The nitrogen’s temperature can dip as low as 321 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. When it makes contact with the skin, the patient will notice a brief feeling resembling an ice cube. Numbness and then a blister follows. The physician may need three to four attempts to successfully remove the warts. The repeated procedures are spread over a two to three-week period.

Lasers represent another surgical approach to periungual wart removal. The beams can attack with accuracy and some potency. Due to the latter property, physicians reserve laser therapy when other methods do not yield success.

wart laser removal

From your cupboard comes apple cider vinegar as a potential, yet unproven remedy. Those who tout this periungual wart removal method mix two parts vinegar with one part water. Apply the treatment with a cotton ball taped to the affected nail or part of the finger and leave overnight.

Periungual Wart Prevention

You may not have the ability to completely avoid these warts. Awareness of the condition of your nails, cuticles, and fingers, as well as your daily habits can lessen your chances of contracting the HPV:

  • Avoid biting your nails and peeling.
  • Strengthen your immune system. Employ a balanced diet, get adequate sleep and exercise, and reduce stress through meditation and relaxation. Wear protective gloves when you wash dishes.
  • Dry your hands, including the fingers and nails.
  • Check the sanitation ratings and conditions in nail salons and nursing homes. Request that nail salon employees change gloves and pumices before serving you, or ask if they change gloves and pumices for each customer.
  • Sanitize your fingernail clippers with hot soap, water, and rubbing alcohol.

Treating periungual warts entails repeated attempts with acids or chemical elements. More drastic measures such as laser surgery and less drastic homemade items may come into play. If you have suffered through these warts, please let us know about your experience and what has helped you clear your fingers and nails of warts.

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