The appearance of warts may cause embarrassment, but they can also be painful or bothersome depending on their location on the skin and the behavior of the wart. Discover more about what causes warts, how they’re removed, and if your Medicare benefits might cover the procedure.
Understanding the Causes of Warts
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) describes warts as non-cancerous, or benign, growths on the skin that arise due to contracting the human papillomavirus, or HPV. As a virus, HPV is contagious and can spread to other parts of the body or someone else. The risk of contracting HPV is greater when the skin is damaged, such as with a cut or scrape, or areas of the body where the hair is shaved off regularly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that HPV is a group of viruses and there are more than 150 strains. Each strain is given a number to identify its type. Not all HPV viruses result in visible warts. Some HPV strains may lead to cancer, though there are vaccines available that can reduce this risk.
Transmission of some types of HPV occurs via touch, or skin-to-skin contact, and can be passed whether or not someone is experiencing visible symptoms of the virus. Symptoms may not develop for years after infection, which may make it difficult to know when it was first contracted.
Identifying Warts for Removal
Due to the many different strains of HPV, warts can occur in several ways. The AAD groups them into the following categories according to what the wart looks like and where on the body they occur:
- Common warts. These warts are typically found on the face, fingers and the backs of hands and can spread between these areas through touching and biting nails. They feel like rough bumps and may have black dots.
- Foot warts. Also known as plantar warts, which are usually found in the soles of feet and grow inwardly due to the pressure from walking on them. These can also have black dots and it may feel painful and like you’re stepping on pebbles.
- Flat warts. Small, smooth warts that can grow anywhere on the body, but most often on the face, but also in areas where the hair is shaved, such as men’s beard area and women’s legs. These grow in clusters anywhere from 20 to 100 warts or more at a time.
- Filiform warts. These are known to grow most often on the face, such as around the eyes, nose and mouth. They grow quickly and look like long, thin fingers or threads and stick out from the skin.
Certain skin cancers can be mistaken for warts. Talk to your doctor about any changes to your skin, especially changes in pigment or painful growths that look infected or inflamed.
Common Wart Removal Procedures
Many warts will go away on their own, but a doctor may advise removal if they are painful, cause discomfort, or are simply undesirable due to their location on the body.
When advised, removal of warts is done through a variety of procedures depending on the type of wart and where it’s growing. Chemical treatment, cryotherapy, laser or electrosurgery, excision and curettage are all viable methods for wart removal that can be performed by your doctor.
Many warts can be hard to treat and because HPV is incurable, even warts that are removed may return to the same site or occur in new areas on the body. Your doctor may recommend immunotherapy if you have a severe strain that is difficult to treat through other methods.
Medicare Coverage for Wart Removal
Medicare benefits can cover outpatient surgical procedures, but only if they are deemed medically necessary by the doctor to treat medical conditions such as infection or the risk of developing cancer. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) can cover qualifying tests and procedures that are done in a doctor’s office or outpatient setting. Medicare coverage through Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers medically necessary tests and procedures performed only if you have been formally admitted into a Medicare-approved hospital as an inpatient.
Removal of warts for cosmetic purposes or with at-home remedies is not covered through Medicare benefits. Certain Medicare Advantage plans do offer over-the-counter allowances which may include certain at-home remedies for wart removal, but these can vary by location and insurer. Any cost-sharing obligations remain the responsibility of the recipient to cover.