Common Warts

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Common warts are small growths on your skin caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are generally harmless and painless and often disappear within 2 years without treatment. While they are often found on the hands, fingers, knees and elbows they can grow anywhere on the body and are more common in children.

    Most warts are raised, round or oval growths that are rough to the touch. They can be lighter or darker than the surrounding skin and may have small black spots throughout. Flat warts are usually found on the face and forehead. Warts often grow where there was a cut or scratch that allowed the HPV virus to enter. You can pick up the HPV virus from towels or surfaces used by someone with a wart.

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    You can spread warts on your body. For example, if you have a wart on your finger and touch other areas of your body where you have a cut or scratch, the virus can be transmitted to the area you touched and new warts can appear.

    While most warts will disappear on their own and are not harmful, some people prefer to take steps to get rid of the warts. This might be for cosmetic reasons or because the wart is in an area that is bumped often and bleeds.

    Over-the Counter Treatments

    There are products containing salicylic acid available over the counter for warts. These come in a solution or a patch. Follow the directions on the package, but in general these types of products are used on a daily basis for a few weeks to a few months. You should soak the wart in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes before applying the medication. In between each daily treatment, you can use a nail file or pumice stone to file off dead skin.

    Keep the wart covered with a bandage to prevent spreading it to other parts of your body.

    Medical Treatments

    If you have warts and over-the-counter treatment isn’t working, talk to your doctor. Some medical treatments are:

    Cryotherapy or liquid nitrogen therapy - these treatments freeze your wart and the surrounding skin. A blister forms in the surrounding skin and then as it heals and falls off, the wart falls off too, usually within one to two weeks.

    Excision - for warts that have not responded to other treatments, your doctor may suggest minor surgery to excise or cut out the wart. This is more painful and may leave a scar so it is not recommended unless other treatments have not worked.


    You can’t prevent a wart from occurring but there are steps you can take to minimize your risk.

    • Take care of cuts and scratches, keeping them clean (wash with soap and water) and covered.
    • Wash your hands on a regular basis.

    If you, or a family member, has a wart, be sure to keep any tools (such as nail files or pumice stones), towels or clothing separate so the HPV virus doesn’t spread to someone else.

    Don’t pick at the wart. Not only can this cause bleeding, it can spread the virus to other parts of your body.

    Keep your hands dry. Warts thrive in a moist environment. Keeping your hands dry helps control the spread of warts.

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    “Warts,” Updated 2012, Nov 20, Updated by Kevin Berman, M.D., Adam Health Encyclopedia

    “Warts,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, American Academy of Dermatologists

Published On: December 05, 2013