This topic has information about warts on any part of
the body except the genitals. For information about warts on the genitals, see
A wart is a
skin growth caused by some types of the virus called the
human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV infects the top layer of skin, usually entering the
body in an area of broken skin. The virus causes the top layer of skin to grow
rapidly, forming a wart. Most warts go away on their own within months or
Warts can grow anywhere on the body, and there are different kinds. For example, common warts grow most often on the hands, but they can grow anywhere. Plantar warts grow on the soles of the feet.
Warts are easily spread by
direct contact with a human papillomavirus. You can infect yourself again by
touching the wart and then touching another part of your body. You can infect another
person by sharing towels, razors, or other personal items. After you've had contact with
HPV, it can take many months of slow growth beneath the skin before you
notice a wart.
It is unlikely that you will get a wart every time
you come in contact with HPV. Some people are more likely to get warts than
Warts come in a wide range
of shapes and sizes. A wart may be a bump with a rough surface, or it may be
flat and smooth. Tiny blood vessels grow into the core of the wart to supply it
with blood. In both common and plantar warts, these blood vessels may look like
dark dots in the wart's center.
Warts are usually painless. But a wart
that grows in a spot where you put pressure, such as on a finger or on the
bottom of the foot, can be painful.
A doctor usually can tell
if a skin growth is a wart just by looking at it. Your doctor may take a sample
of the wart and look at it under a microscope (a skin biopsy). This may be done if it isn't clear that the
growth is a wart. It may also be done if a skin growth is darker than the skin
surrounding it, is an irregular patch on the skin, bleeds, or is large and
Most warts don't need
treatment. But if you have warts that are painful or spreading, or if you are
bothered by the way they look, your treatment choices include:
- Using a home treatment such as salicylic acid
or duct tape. You can get these without a prescription.
Putting a stronger medicine on the wart, or getting a shot of medicine in
- Freezing the wart (cryotherapy).
- Removing the
wart with surgery (electrosurgery, curettage, laser surgery).
Wart treatment doesn't always work. Even after a wart
shrinks or goes away, warts may come back or spread to other parts of the body.
This is because most treatments destroy the wart but don't kill the virus that
causes the wart.