Information about Common Warts

  • Warts

    Warts are common skin lesions caused by viruses of the HPV family.  They usually appear as small, round or oval, painless growths on the surface of the skin.  The wart is formed when the virus infects the top layer of the skin causing rapid tissue growth.  Warts may be lighter or darker in color than the surrounding skin and often have a rough surface.   They can be found anywhere on the body, but are most frequently seen on the fingers, hands, and feet.

    There are several kinds of warts:

    Common warts: 

    • painless
    • round, raised, with dark spots in the center
    • gray-brown in color
    • surface resembles a head of cauliflower
    • generally seen on the hands, but can appear anywhere. 

    Flat warts:

    • tiny (pinpoint), smooth with flat tops
    • usually pink, light brown, or light yellow
    • generally found on the face and forehead, more common in children

    Plantar warts:

    • hard, thick patches of skin with dark specks
    • found on the soles of the feet
    • can become very painful due to the pressure exerted when walking

    Genital warts:

    • should be treated by a physician

    Filiform warts:

    • have finger-shaped threads sticking out of them
    • flesh colored
    • found on or around the mouth, eyes, or nose

    Subungual and periungual warts: 

    • appear under and around the fingernails or toenails
    • can affect nail growth
    • difficult to treat

    Warts are contagious, but are generally harmless.  The virus usually enters the body through a small cut or scratch when a person comes in contact with an object that has been handled by someone with a wart.  Transmission can also occur from person to person, but this is less common.  Warts can spread to different parts of the body by picking or scratching and these practices should be avoided.

    To reduce the risk of exposure good, frequent hand washing should be encouraged and water-proof sandals or flip-flops should be worn in public pool or shower areas and locker rooms.

    Over-the-counter medications are available to treat warts, but if left untreated, they often disappear spontaneously; however, it may take from 6 months to 2 years.  Other treatments include burning with a light electrical current, freezing by applying liquid nitrogen, or laser treatments.