Health

Skin Overgrowths: What you need to know

Brian Nambale. Photo/File

By Brian Nambale

Skin overgrowths are becoming very common and cause a condition in clinical nursing called body image disturbance which is associated with thoughts like “Why has it come on my skin” “is there any way we can remove it” and “This thing has made me look ugly” extra.

Cosmetology training is now a training accredited in many tertiary institutions across the country. Nevertheless, we have seen in this era herbal medicines, Nutritional Supplements and local concoction advertisements done more than modern Medicine with even self-made drug hawkers in General markets, on the streets (evening shopping) and in public transport, especially buses; the public stands at a greater risk of consuming anything due to good marketing skills.

A Clinical fellow recently shared a case from Namisidwa District, Eastern Uganda of a lady currently suffering from small acid burns in her genitals following advice from her peers that battery acid applied on genital skin overgrowths would stop them from progressing and that they would die off. Another case was using a certain plant sap to apply on the overgrowths and claimed that it was extremely painful and corrosive only to appear with big scars transforming into keloids.

Whilst Modern medicines have dermatologically tested and proven approaches to skin overgrowths for cosmetic purposes; other treatments and therapies have less data and prove their approaches to skin overgrowths.

As we grow older it’s common to develop lesions, growths and skin discolorations. Generally, these aren’t health life-threatening, though it’s naturally good to be concerned about cancerous growths and it’s very important to learn to be assessed for all potential new or unusual growths for cancer.  

According to Dr Clement Banda of the vein & skin specialists, these overgrowths can be Warts and Verrucas; Seborrheic Keratoses(usually  black, appearing on the chest, face, or neck as you get older, they appear as raised, waxy bumps brown to black or light tan); Skin Tags(medically called acrochordons, they usually appear skin-on-skin fiction, such as under the arms or breasts, groin and neck but also commonly  appear on the chest and back) & Sebaceous Hyperplasia(caused by an enlargement of the sebaceous glands surrounding  a skin follicle and occur most in men and usually caused by sun exposure, immunosuppressant medication like cyclosporine and also in Heart & kidney transplant recipients) 

We shall extensively look at the most common overgrowths which are Warts and verrucas.

Warts and verrucas are small lumps on the skin that most people have at some point in their life. They usually go away on their own but may take months or even years.

Check if you have a wart or verruca

  • Warts feel firm and rough. They can appear on palms, knuckles, knees, genitals and fingers
  • Warts are usually skin coloured but may appear darker on dark skin. 
  • Verrucas appear on your feet. They have tiny black dots under the hard skin. 
  • Some warts are round, flat and can be yellow (plane warts). You can have many of them. 

Clusters of warts, spread over an area of skin (mosaic warts) are common on feet and hands. Warts do not cause you any harm, but some people find them itchy, painful or embarrassing. Verrucas are more likely to be painful – like standing on a needle (pricking /piercing pain).

What can I do if I suspect myself to have a wart or a verruca?

You can treat warts if they bother you, keep coming back or are painful.

Visit a general practitioner who in turn will find out what exactly it is and refer you to a dermatologist (skin specialist) and venereologist (Sexually Transmitted infection specialist)  for effective management 

Can a pharmacist help with warts and verrucas?

If the medicine is prescribed by a general practitioner/  certified dermatologist, you can present your prescription note to the pharmacy and a pharmacy nurse will give a thorough explanation with prescription instructions.

 You can buy creams, plasters and sprays from pharmacies to treat warts and verrucas.
These treatments can take up to 3 months to complete, may irritate your skin and do not always work. You should not use these treatments on your face.

Your pharmacist can give you advice about the best treatment for you.

What you should expect from a general practitioner (GP)

  • A GP may be able to freeze a wart or verruca so it falls off a few weeks later. Sometimes it takes a few sessions.
  • May use non-invasive medicines like silver nitrate pencil or podophyllin solution
  • Tie Ligature methods which cut off the blood supply until it falls off.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if: 

  • You’re worried about a growth on your skin
  • You have a wart or verruca that keeps coming back
  • You have a very large or painful wart or verruca
  • A wart bleeds or changes in how it looks
  • You have a wart on your face or genitals

If treatment has not worked or you have a wart on your face, the GP might refer you to a skin specialist. Other treatments include minor surgery and treatment with laser or light.

Oncologists and palliative care specialities are normally consulted during pain management and determining if a suspected overgrowth is cancerous and a tissue or small piece of that swelling or overgrowth is picked off from the affected site(Biopsy)for testing called histology in order to apply more advanced treatment.

How to stop warts and verrucas spreading

Warts and verrucas are caused by a virus. They can be spread to other people from contaminated surfaces or through close skin contact. You’re more likely to spread a wart or verruca if your skin is wet or damaged.

It can take months for a wart or verruca to appear after contact with the virus.

Dos 

  • Wash your hands after touching a wart or verruca
  • Change your socks daily if you have a verruca
  • Cover warts and verrucas with a plaster when swimming
  • Take care not to cut a wart when shaving

Don’ts 

  • Do not share towels, flannels, socks or shoes if you have a wart or verruca
  • Do not bite your nails or suck fingers with warts on
  • Do not walk barefoot in public places if you have a verruca
  • Do not scratch or pick a wart

Please note that the above symptoms can occur in any other disease too you need thorough medical consultation and examination to find the cause and receive effective advice and treatment.

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The author; Brian Nambale, is a Clinical Case Manager, Medicure Trauma Centre – Nabumali, Mbale Lc 5 Councilor and Member of the Mbale District Health & Education Commitee | Email: nambaalebrian2@gmail.com



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