Warts: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment


Warts are small, rough growths that typically appear on the skin of the hands and feet due to infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are non-cancerous and can vary in appearance, from flat to cauliflower-like bumps. Warts are contagious and can spread through direct contact. Treatment options include topical medications, freezing, or minor surgical procedures to remove them.

Symptoms of Warts

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Warts, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Dermatologist.


  • Viral Infection: Warts are caused by various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Direct Contact: The virus spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or indirectly through contaminated surfaces.
  • Breaks in the Skin: Warts are more likely to develop where the skin is broken, such as cuts, hangnails, or areas with frequent friction.
  • Weak Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems (due to illness or medications) are more susceptible to HPV and may develop warts more easily.
  • Shared Items: Sharing towels, razors, or other personal items with someone who has warts can increase the risk of infection.
  • Walking Barefoot: Especially in warm, moist environments like public showers or swimming pools, increases exposure to the virus.
  • Age: Children and young adults are more prone to developing warts, possibly due to a less developed immune response to HPV.
  • Genetics: Some people may be genetically predisposed to developing warts more easily than others.
  • Personal Hygiene: Poor hygiene practices can contribute to the spread and development of warts.
  • Scratching: Scratching or picking at existing warts can spread the virus to other parts of the body.

Risk Factors

  • Skin-to-Skin Contact: Direct contact with warts on another person can spread the infection.
  • Minor Skin Injuries: Areas with cuts or abrasions provide entry points for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes warts.
  • Weakened Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to HPV infections, increasing their risk of developing warts.
  • Warm and Moist Environments: Places like swimming pools, communal showers, and gym locker rooms where people are barefoot can harbor HPV and increase transmission risk.
  • Age: Children and teenagers tend to be more susceptible to warts, possibly due to more frequent skin-to-skin contact and still-developing immune systems.
  • Personal Hygiene: Poor hygiene may contribute to the spread of warts, although direct causation is unclear.
  • Certain Occupations: People in occupations where they handle meat (butchers) or use communal equipment (gym instructors) may have a higher risk due to increased skin exposure.
  • Genetics: Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to developing warts more easily than others.
  • Existing Skin Conditions: Conditions like eczema or other types of dermatitis can make the skin more vulnerable to HPV infection.
  • Personal Habits: Biting nails or picking at hangnails can create openings in the skin where HPV can enter, increasing the risk of developing warts.


  • Appearance: Small, rough bumps on the skin or mucous membranes.
  • Texture: Often feels grainy or rough to the touch.
  • Color: Can be flesh-colored, white, pink, or tan.
  • Size: Vary in size from very small (1-2 mm) to larger than a centimeter.
  • Location: Commonly found on hands, fingers, elbows, knees, and feet.
  • Shape: Typically round or oval-shaped.
  • Clustering: Sometimes appear in clusters (mosaic warts).
  • Pain or discomfort: Warts on weight-bearing areas (like the soles of the feet) may cause pain or discomfort.
  • Changes: May grow or change in appearance over time.
  • Spread: Can spread to nearby skin through scratching or shaving.
  • Transmission: Easily transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with contaminated surfaces.
  • Immune response: Often more prevalent in individuals with weakened immune systems.

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  • Visual Examination: Doctors usually diagnose warts by their appearance. They are often rough, raised, and have a cauliflower-like texture.
  • Location: Warts commonly appear on hands, fingers, feet (plantar warts), and genitals. The location can sometimes indicate the type of wart.
  • Clinical History: Doctors may inquire about the duration, changes in size or appearance, and any discomfort associated with the wart.
  • Diagnostic Tests: In some cases, particularly if the diagnosis is unclear or the wart doesn't respond to treatment, a biopsy or other tests may be recommended.
  • Differential Diagnosis: Other skin conditions such as corns, calluses, skin tags, or other benign or malignant growths may need to be ruled out.
  • Physical Examination: Sometimes, the doctor may use a magnifying glass (dermatoscope) to closely examine the wart.
  • Patient Symptoms: It's important for patients to describe any itching, pain, or bleeding associated with the wart, which can aid in diagnosis.
  • Medical History: Conditions like immunodeficiency can affect wart presentation and treatment response, so a thorough medical history is often taken.
  • Discussion of Treatment Options: Once diagnosed, treatment options are discussed based on the type, location, and patient preferences.
  • Follow-up: Monitoring for recurrence after treatment is crucial, as warts can sometimes return despite treatment efforts.


Over-the-counter treatments:

  • Salicylic acid preparations (like compound W) to dissolve the wart.
  • Cryotherapy products (like Dr. Scholl's Freeze Away) to freeze the wart.

Prescription treatments:

  • Stronger salicylic acid preparations prescribed by a doctor.
  • Topical treatments like imiquimod, which stimulate the immune system to fight the virus causing the wart.

In-office procedures:

  • Cryotherapy: Freezing the wart off with liquid nitrogen.
  • Electrosurgery: Burning the wart with an electrical current.
  • Laser treatment: Using laser light to destroy the wart tissue.

Home remedies (often less proven):

  • Duct tape occlusion therapy.
  • Apple cider vinegar application.
  • Garlic extract application.

Other considerations:

  • Warts can sometimes disappear on their own over time due to the body's immune response.
  • Proper hygiene practices can help prevent the spread of warts to other parts of the body or to other people.
  • Avoiding direct contact with warts and not picking at them can reduce spread and potential for recurrence.

Consultation with a healthcare provider:

  • If warts are persistent, large, or causing discomfort, seeking medical advice is recommended for proper evaluation and treatment.
  • They can recommend the most effective treatment based on the type of wart, its location, and individual health considerations.

Preventive Measures

  • Avoid direct contact: Warts are caused by viruses that spread through direct skin-to-skin contact. Avoid touching warts on yourself or others.
  • Keep skin clean and dry: Good hygiene can help prevent warts. Wash hands regularly and keep skin clean and dry, especially in warm and moist areas like swimming pools and locker rooms.
  • Avoid sharing personal items: Items such as towels, razors, socks, and shoes can harbor the virus that causes warts. Avoid sharing these items with others.
  • Use protective footwear: Wear flip-flops or sandals in communal showers, locker rooms, and around swimming pools to reduce exposure to the virus.
  • Keep skin healthy: Minor cuts and scrapes can provide entry points for the virus. Keep skin healthy and promptly treat any cuts or scrapes with antiseptic.
  • Boost immune system: A strong immune system can help your body fight off the virus that causes warts. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and manage stress.
  • Avoid biting nails or picking at hangnails: These habits can create openings for the virus to enter the skin around your nails.
  • Consider HPV vaccination: For certain types of warts caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), vaccination may reduce the risk of developing them.
  • Regularly inspect skin: Check your skin periodically for any signs of warts, especially if you have previously had them.
  • Seek prompt treatment: If you notice a wart developing, seek treatment early to prevent it from spreading to other areas of your body or to other people.

Do's & Don’t's

Do's Don't
Do keep the area clean Don't pick or scratch warts
Do cover warts in public Don't share personal items
Do consult a doctor Don't ignore changes in warts
Do follow treatment plan Don't use over-the-counter remedies excessively without consulting a healthcare professional
Do wash hands regularly Don't use sharp tools to cut off warts
Do use separate towels Don't attempt to treat warts with home remedies without consulting a doctor
Do maintain good hygiene Don't ignore proper wound care
Do use protective footwear Don't self-diagnose
Do consult for persistent, painful, or spreading warts Don't apply medications not intended for warts without medical advice

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Warts, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Dermatologist.

Frequently Asked Questions
Warts are small, rough growths on the skin that are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They can appear on any part of the body and vary in size, shape, and color.
Warts are highly contagious and can spread through direct contact with an infected person or by touching surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. It is important to avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors to prevent transmission.
No, there are different types of warts including common warts, plantar warts (found on the soles of feet), flat warts (usually found on the face or legs), and genital warts. Each type may require a different approach for treatment.
While there are over-the-counter treatments available for wart removal, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies may not always be effective and could potentially cause harm if not used correctly.
The duration of wart removal varies depending on factors such as size, location, and individual response to treatment. Some warts may disappear within weeks while others may take several months or longer to resolve completely.
Although it is difficult to completely prevent contracting HPV, there are measures you can take to reduce your risk. These include practicing good hygiene, avoiding direct contact with warts, keeping your skin healthy and moisturized, and wearing protective footwear in public areas such as locker rooms or swimming pools.
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