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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Warts and Plantar Warts - Cause

A wart develops when a human papillomavirus (HPV) infects the outer 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, a hangnail, a closely bitten nail, or a scrape. Plantar warts are common in swimmers whose feet are not only damp and softened but are also scratched and broken by rough pool surfaces. Common warts are often seen among those who handle meat, chicken, and fish.

How are warts spread?

Warts are easily spread by direct contact with a human papillomavirus. You can reinfect yourself by touching the wart and then touching another part of your body. You can infect others by sharing towels, razors, or other personal items. After exposure to a human papillomavirus, it can take many months of slow growth beneath the skin before you notice a wart.

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 others.

Can common warts on hands or fingers be spread to the genitals and cause genital warts?

It depends. There are many types of HPV, and the types that cause common warts are usually different from those that cause plantar warts and genital warts. If the wart on a person's hand is caused by a type of HPV that can also cause genital warts, then there is a chance that skin contact could cause genital warts.

But common warts don't cause the type of genital warts that lead to high-risk cancers.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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