What causes warts, and how are they spread?
develops when a
human papillomavirus infects the outermost layer of
skin and causes the skin cells to grow rapidly. The virus can then spread from
an existing wart to other areas of the body, causing more warts. Various types
of this virus thrive in warm, damp environments such as showers, locker room
floors, and swimming pool areas.
You are most likely to develop a
wart where you have broken skin, such as a cut, hangnail, closely bitten nail,
or scrape. Plantar warts are common in swimmers whose feet are not only moist
and softened but are also scratched and broken by rough pool surfaces.
Warts are easily spread by direct contact with a human papillomavirus.
You can reinfect yourself by touching the wart and then another part of your
body. You can infect others by sharing towels, razors, or other personal items.
It is unlikely that you will develop a wart every time you are exposed to a
human papillomavirus. Some people are more likely to develop warts than
Why treat warts?
Many people do not treat warts.
Warts do not cause cancer and generally go away on their own. But you may
consider treatment if you:
- Have a plantar wart that is painful to walk
- Have a wart problem that is getting worse, is easily irritated,
or embarrasses you.
- Are concerned about spreading the virus to
The benefits of treating warts should be considered with
the drawbacks. Warts often come back, treatment is not always effective and may
take a long time, and the cost may not justify the benefits. Some treatments
can cause scarring.
How effective is treatment for warts?
there are many treatments for warts, little is known about how effective
treatment is.2 Even with treatment, warts often
Nonprescription salicylic acid is as effective as or more
effective than other treatments, with minimal risk and pain.3
- A review of research suggests that salicylic
acid is a safe treatment that effectively eliminates warts up to 75% of the
time. By comparison,
placebo or no treatment eliminated warts about 50% of
- There is currently no evidence
that cryotherapy is any more effective than salicylic acid.3
If you need more information, see the topic
Warts and Plantar Warts.