News & Events: Member Articles

Vulgar Conditions
By Dr. Warren Kleinberg, M.D. M.P.H.

The Latin word for common is vulgarus. A number of conditions and diseases have names indicating that they are “ordinary” and are found frequently, such as verrucus vulgarus (Common warts), ichthyosis vulgarus (common, dry scaly skin), and acne vulgarus (pimples).

Warts are caused by viruses (human papilloma virus). There are many types of papilloma viruses, each having a tendency to cause warts on different parts of the body. Warts tend to last a few months to a few years on the skin with some individuals seeming to be more susceptible than others to warts on the skin.

Genital warts are caused by specific strains of the virus and last many years. They have been implicated as the cause of cervical cancer in women. An exciting new vaccine will be available soon to protect against cancer causing strains of the virus and has been shown to be very effective in initial studies.

Treatment of warts varies from a variety of home and over-the-counter remedies to burning, freezing, and laser treatments. The most common and successful treatments involve slowly dissolving and softening the skin over the wart and require patience with daily treatments lasting one to two months.

Ichthyosis vulgarus literally means common fish skin. In some persons, a hereditary tendency to have scale-like cracks when the skin, especially on the legs, is very dry, particularly in the cold months. The skin has been compared to “alligator hide,” can be thick and leathery, often has an ashen appearance, and itches because of the dryness. The severity varies from person to person. Short of moving to a warmer, more humid climate, the frequent use of heavy moisturizers and creams can be helpful. Oiling the skin after baths and using an alpha-hydroxy lotion regularly can help control the appearance.

Acne vulgarus (pimples, zits, etc.) is common in newborn babies, teenagers, and young adults. Some forms persist later into life in certain individuals. It is a major medical as well as cosmetic problem in many teenagers and may leave scars or pigmented spots on the face and back. There are many newer, effective treatments to reduce and control acne. Newborn acne usually clears up in a month or two and requires no treatment unless complicated by other conditions. Teenage acne can be a problem for years. Both newborn and teenage acne is associated with the hormone changes taking place in the body; the newborn’s hormones are from the pregnancy and are eliminated over a few weeks while a teen’s are increasing over many years.

The three common conditions described above account for millions of dollars in cost for remedies from drug stores, health-food stores, magazine adds, TV ads and sales, and internet sales. Speak with your doctor about what is effective.

Warren Kleinberg, M.D. M.P.H.
Academy of Medicine of Toledo and Lucas County