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Warts

Causes, Related Conditions, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • Warts are small, typically painless skin growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can appear on various parts of the body.
  • HPV is contagious and can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or via an infected object, with certain groups like children, teenagers, and those with weakened immune systems being particularly susceptible.
  • Some strains of HPV can increase the risk of cancer, particularly genital warts.
  • Prevention strategies include avoiding contact with warts, not sharing personal items, covering wounds, practicing safer sex, and not picking at warts.
  • Treatment options for warts range from waiting for them to disappear naturally, using over-the-counter remedies, or seeking medical interventions.

Possible Symptoms for Warts

Warts are small, fleshy growths that develop on the skin. They're often painless, but some can cause itching, burning, or soreness. Warts are especially common on the hands and feet,[1] but they can also develop on other parts of the body, including the face and genitals.[2][3]

The appearance of warts can vary. Warts may be:[1]

  • Smooth and flat
  • Fleshy-colored
  • Flecked with black

You may have just one wart, or several. Some warts, known as mosaic warts, can grow in large clusters.

Top Warts Causes

Warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).[3] HPV is a contagious virus that is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or an infected object, like a towel.[1]

Children, teenagers, and people with a weakened immune system are especially susceptible to HPV.[1] Warts caused by HPV usually disappear on their own, but if you have a compromised immune system, you may need medical treatment to get rid of your warts.

There are over 150 strains of HPV.[1] Each one causes different symptoms and can affect different body parts. While most strains are harmless, some may put you at risk for future health problems. Genital warts, for example, can increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer.[2] Your doctor can provide more information about protecting yourself against cancers linked to HPV.

6 Ways to Prevent Warts

1. Avoid physical contact with people who have warts

HPV is often spread through direct contact with someone who has warts. If you notice that someone has visible warts, avoid close or intimate contact. Never touch another person's warts.[4]

2. Wear shoes in locker rooms and public showers

HPV thrives in warm, moist environments. When using a locker room or public shower, wear shower shoes. Avoid direct contact with communal surfaces like benches or sinks.[4]

3. Don't share towels, bedding, or razors

HPV can live for a short period on some objects and surfaces.[1][4] To prevent the spread of warts, don't share personal care items like razors or makeup brushes. Avoid sharing any unwashed clothing, bedding, or towels.

4. Cover up cuts and scrapes

HPV can enter the skin through small cuts or scrapes.[1] If you have an injury, clean it and cover it with a sterile bandage to prevent HPV infection. Change the bandage often and keep the surrounding area clean. Avoid picking at scabs or touching the injured area with unwashed hands.

5. Practice safer sex

Genital warts are spread through sexual contact. You can prevent the spread of this STD by using condoms. Remember that people can spread HPV even if they aren't showing any symptoms. When having sex with a new partner or someone who knows they have HPV, it's always best to use protection.[2]

6. Don't rub, scratch, or pick at your warts

If you have a wart, you may spread the virus to other parts of your body by picking or scratching at the wart. Cover your wart with a bandage can help you avoid spreading the wart to other people or other parts of your body.[1]

Possible Wart Treatment Options

1. Time

Warts often disappear without any special treatment. Given time, your body can learn to fight off warts on its own. This process may take several months or even years.[5]

However, even if your body fights off your warts, the virus can remain dormant in your body. In some cases, it can reawaken later on if you are ill, injured, or under stress. When the virus reawakens, you may experience a new wart outbreak.

2. Over-the-counter remedies

Many over-the-counter products can help treat warts. These products usually contain a liquid or gel which is applied to the wart. The ingredients in the product slowly dissolve the wart and peel away infected skin.[5]

It can take several months for these products to successfully remove your warts. Over-the-counter products are often used to treat warts on the hands or feet, but they shouldn't be used on your genitals or any mucous membrane. When using an over-the-counter product, always follow the product's instructions.

3. In-office procedures

If you have stubborn warts, your doctor may use a variety of techniques to remove them. Depending on the size and location of your warts, your doctor might surgically remove the wart with a sharp tool. Your doctor may also use special procedures that burn or freeze the affected area. In rare cases, your doctor may suggest laser therapy to remove a wart that hasn't responded to other treatments.[6]

4. Prescription creams or injections

Prescription medications can sometimes help remove a stubborn wart. These medications are often applied to the skin or injected into the wart.[6] Prescription drugs are especially helpful for people with a weakened immune system. They can give your immune system a boost to help it fight off the infection.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Warts Treatment

  • How long have you had your warts?
  • Do your warts hurt or itch?
  • Do you have warts on any other areas of your body?
  • Do you have any medical conditions that affect your immune system?
  • Do you tend to bite, pick, or scratch at your skin?
  • Have you tried any at-home wart-removal treatments?

Warts May Also be Known as:

  • Verruca

Frequently asked questions

  • What causes warts?

    Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • How is HPV transmitted?

    HPV can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or by touching an object that has been infected with the virus.
  • Are certain people more susceptible to getting warts?

    Yes, children, teenagers, and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to getting warts.
  • Can HPV increase the risk of cancer?

    Yes, certain strains of HPV, particularly those that cause genital warts, can increase the risk of cancer.
  • How can I prevent getting warts?

    You can prevent getting warts by avoiding contact with warts, not sharing personal items, covering any cuts or scrapes, practicing safer sex, and not picking at existing warts.
  • What are the treatment options for warts?

    Treatment options for warts include waiting for them to disappear naturally, using over-the-counter remedies, or seeking medical interventions such as in-office procedures or prescription creams or injections.

Related Health Concerns

Bacterial Vaginosis

Chancroid

Chlamydia

Family Planning

Genital Herpes

Gonorrhea

HIV

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Herpes

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Myomectomy

Pubic Lice

Sexual Health

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Syphilis

Trichomoniasis

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

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