Warts are small, usually painless growths on the skin. Most of the time they are harmless. They are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). Some types of warts are spread through sex.
Certain warts have an increased risk of cancer. Your health care provider can discuss this with you.
Warts may affect your appearance and can be embarrassing. Warts may itch or hurt (especially when they are on the feet).
All warts can spread from one part of your body to another. Warts can spread from person to person, but this is uncommon.
Most warts are raised and have a rough surface. They may be round or oval.
Different types of warts include:
Your health care provider will look at your skin to diagnose warts.
You may have a skin biopsy to confirm the wart is not another type of growth, such as skin cancer.
Your health care provider can treat a wart if you do not like how it looks or if it is painful.
Do NOT attempt to remove a wart yourself by burning, cutting, tearing, picking, or by any other method.
Over-the-counter medicines are available to remove warts.
Do NOT use over-the-counter wart medicines on your face or genitals. Warts in these areas need to be treated by a health care provider.
To use wart-removal medicine:
Special foot cushions can help ease the pain from plantar warts. You can buy these at drugstores without a prescription. Use socks. Wear shoes with plenty of room. Avoid high heels.
Your health care provider may need to trim away thick skin or calluses that form over warts on your foot or around nails.
Your provider may recommend the following treatments if your warts do not go away:
Genital warts are treated in a different way than most other warts.
A medicine called veregen may be used on genital warts, as well as on other warts.
Most often, warts are harmless growths that go away on their own within 2 years. Warts around and under your nails are harder to cure than warts in other places. Warts can come back after treatment even if they appear to go away. Minor scars can form after warts are removed.
Call your health care provider if:
Plane juvenile warts; Periungual warts; Subungual warts; Plantar warts; Verruca; Verrucae planae juveniles; Filiform warts; Verruca vulgaris
Habif TP. Warts, herpes simplex, and other viral infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 12.
Kirnbauer R, Lenz P. Human papilloma viruse. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 79.
Mulhem E, Pinelis S. Treatment of nongenital cutaneous warts. Am Fam Physician. 2011;84:288-293.
Updated by: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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