Generally warts represent a type of skin growth which is not cancerous. They are a form of viral infection. Wart viruses are contagious by contact. You are more likely to get one if you damage your skin in some way. Warts can grow on any part of your body. Warts are often skin-colored and feel rough, but they can also be brown or black, and flat, and smooth.
What types of warts are there?
There are a few different types of warts. The type is determined by where it grows on the body and what it looks like. The following describes the signs and symptoms for some of the types.
Common warts (also called vurruca vulgaris)
If you see a wart on your child’s face, check your child’s hands for warts. The virus that causes warts can spread from the hands to the face through touch or nail biting.
- Grow most often on the fingers, around the nails, and on the backs of the hands.
- Are more common where skin was broken, such as from biting fingernails or picking at hangnails.
Foot warts (also called plantar warts)
Plantar warts have these traits:
- Grow most often on the soles of the feet.
- Can grow in clusters.
- Often are flat or grow inward.
- Can be painful.
Flat warts have these traits:
- Can occur anywhere, but children often get them on the face. Men get these most often in the beard area, and women tend to get them on their legs.
- Are smaller and smoother than other warts.
- Tend to grow in large numbers — 20 to 100 at a time.
Filiform warts have these traits:
- Looks like long threads or thin fingers that stick out.
- Often grows on the face: around the mouth, eyes, and nose.
- May grow quickly.
Who gets warts?
Anyone can get warts. Some people are more prone to getting a wart virus (HPV) than others. These people are:
- Children and teens.
- People who bite their nails or pick at hangnails.
- People with a weakened immune system.
Self-Treatment of Warts
A problem with self-treatment is that you might mistake another kind of skin growth for a wart. Some skin cancers can look like warts.
See a dermatologist especially when you have a suspicion that the growth is not a wart, if you have a wart on your face or genitals, many warts, warts that hurt, itch, burn, or bleed, a weakened immune system, or diabetes. Never try to remove any wart on your foot if you have diabetes. If you cut or burn your skin, it could cause lasting damage.
- Salicylic acid: You can treat warts at home by applying salicylic acid. It comes in different forms — a gel, liquid, or plaster (pad). You should apply salicylic acid to the wart every day. Before applying the salicylic acid, be sure to soak the wart in warm water. It can take many weeks of treatment to have good results — even when you do not stop treatment.
- Other home remedies: Some home remedies are harmless, such as covering warts with duct tape. Changing the tape every few days might peel away layers of the wart. Studies conflict, though, on whether duct tape really gets rid of warts.
How do dermatologists diagnose warts?
A dermatologist can tell whether you have a wart by looking at it. In rare cases, a dermatologist may need to perform a skin biopsy to be certain. If a dermatologist needs to perform a biopsy, the doctor will remove the wart and send it to a lab. At the lab, a small piece of the wart will be looked at under a microscope.
A biopsy is a safe and quick procedure for a dermatologist to perform. It should not cause any anxiety.
How can you prevent warts?
To prevent warts from spreading, dermatologists recommend the following:
- Do not pick or scratch at warts.
- Wear plastic sandals or pool shoes in public showers, locker rooms, and pool areas.
- Do not touch someone’s wart.
- Keep foot warts dry.
How do dermatologists treat warts?
A dermatologist can often tell whether you have a wart by looking at it. In rare cases, a dermatologist may need to perform a skin biopsy to be certain. They are treated either by applying certain medications or by surgery.