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What Are Water Warts?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Water warts are skin eruptions caused by a virus known as molluscum contagiosum. These warts typically appear as small, fluid-filled blisters that tend to occur in groups. While water warts themselves are usually painless, the surrounding skin may become red and irritated due to scratching or from clothing rubbing against the lesions. The fluid inside the blisters is highly contagious, so it is important to avoid direct contact with others to prevent the spread of the virus. Treatment for these types of warts is not always necessary, although topical medications, cryotherapy, or surgery may sometimes be used in an effort to remove the warts.

As a member of the pox family of viruses, water warts are relatively common among children. In most cases, the blisters will disappear on their own within a matter of weeks or months. If there are several warts present, they may not all disappear at the same time. If extreme skin irritation occurs or if the presence of the lesions causes embarrassment or a loss of self-confidence, a doctor may choose to remove the warts instead of allowing them to run their course.

Adolescents and adults may become infected with these warts as a result of sexual contact with an infected person. Transmission may also occur by sharing clothing, towels, or bedding with a person who has been infected with the molluscum contagiosum virus. Anyone who has been diagnosed with this virus should take precautions, such as using a condom as well as separate towels or other linens, to avoid infecting others.

Some medications that are traditionally used to treat acne may be effective in ridding the body of water warts in some instances. Alternately, a substance known as silver nitrate may be used to burn off the warts. Neither of these treatment methods are guaranteed to work right away and may need to be repeated.

Cryotherapy is a procedure in which liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the tissue of the wart so that it falls off. In many cases, only one layer at a time is removed, causing repeated applications to become necessary. Some patients have reported mild to moderate pain or discomfort related to this procedure.

In some cases, cryotherapy may be combined with the surgical removal of water warts. The lesions are first frozen and then cut off with a scalpel. Laser surgery is also a relatively successful treatment method for these warts. Even though both of these procedures can completely remove the warts, there is a high rate of recurrence.

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Discussion Comments
By kylee07drg — On Sep 30, 2012

Try to avoid the temptation to drain your water warts. I did this, and they became very sore.

I poked them with a needle and squeezed. I wound up with multiple sore spots that looked even worse than before.

By wavy58 — On Sep 29, 2012

@cloudel – The virus leaves with the warts. So, it won't just lie in wait inside your body.

My doctor told me that this virus lives on the skin and not deep within the body. So, once the evidence disappears, it means that the virus has left.

I had water warts that lasted for seven months. I hated living with them, but I knew that treatment would be expensive and they would probably come back in spite of it. I kept them covered with a bandage during the day to keep from giving the virus to other people at work.

By cloudel — On Sep 29, 2012

I know that water warts can come back if you have them removed. However, that is just during the infection phase, right?

Can the virus lie dormant and flare up at any time, or is it gone once the warts disappear? I would hate to think that I could have a flareup without warning.

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