Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Font Size

What Causes Common Skin Warts?

Blame common viruses that exist nearly everywhere.
By Hilary Parker
WebMD Feature

When skin warts appear, it can seem as if the harmless growths came out of nowhere.

But common warts are actually an infection in the top layer of skin, caused by viruses in the human papillomavirus, or HPV, family. When the virus invades this outer layer of skin, usually through a tiny scratch, it causes rapid growth of cells on the outer layer of skin – creating the wart.

Recommended Related to Skin Problems & Treatments

Antiperspirant Safety: Should You Sweat It?

Word travels fast on the Internet. As stories fly from inbox to inbox, they gain momentum and news sometimes blurs with fiction. A few years ago, an email began circulating that gave many readers reason to pause. It read: "I just got information from a health seminar that I would like to share. The leading cause of breast cancer is the use of antiperspirant. Yes, ANTIPERSPIRANT. Most of the products out there are an anti-perspirant/deodorant combination so go home and check your labels." The email...

Read the Antiperspirant Safety: Should You Sweat It? article > >

“HPV is ubiquitous,” says dermatologist Conway Huang, MD, an associate professor of dermatologic surgery and cutaneous laser surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “We all come in contact with it,” throughout our lives, such as when shaking hands, turning doorknobs, or typing on keyboards.

Scientists have identified more than 100 unique types of the virus. And most people will have at least one common wart at sometime in their lives, usually on their hands.

Certain forms of the virus are more likely to cause skin warts on the hands. Other forms of HPV are more likely to cause genital warts, although some strains of the virus can cause both.

How do people get common skin warts?

If you have any type of skin wart, it means that you came in contact with a wart-causing virus sometime in the past, though it could have been months ago.

“People get warts from other people with warts, they don't get them from frogs and toads,” says Robert Brodell, MD, a dermatologist in Warren, Ohio. “The most common way is direct skin-to-skin contact, such as shaking hands with someone who has warts on their hand. You can also get the virus from inanimate objects, like towels that have been used by someone with a wart.”

The viruses are more likely to cause warts when they come in contact with skin that is damaged or cut. Getting a small scrape or biting fingernails may bring on wart. Similarly, cuts and nicks from shaving can provide an avenue for infection. This explains why men may have warts in the beard area, while women often have them appear on the legs.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Pictures and symptoms of the red, scaly rash.
woman with dyed dark hair
What it says about your health.
woman with cleaning products
Top causes of the itch that rashes.
atopic dermatitus
Identify and treat common skin problems.
itchy skin
shingles rash on skin
woman with skin tag
Woman washing face
woman washing her hair in sink
close up of womans bare neck
woman with face cream