Warts are a common benign (non-cancerous) skin growth caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts can appear on any part of the body, but you will mostly notice them on your hands and feet. They may vary in shape, size and color and occasionally be tender or painful. Warts are contagious and easily spread by direct contact.
Warts can sometimes go away without treatment, but in cases where they do not, some treatments effectively remove them.
More than 3 million people are diagnosed with warts each year in the U.S. Anyone can get a wart, but those most at risk of developing warts include children and young adults or people with weakened immune systems. Also, once you have had a wart, you are likely to develop more.
Different types of warts have various symptoms.
The first step to diagnosing the bump is to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. Your doctor will ask about your and your family’s medical history and will examine the spot. If your doctor suspects a wart, they may scrape off the top layer to check for the dark, pinpoint dots common in warts. Alternately, they may remove a small portion of the wart to biopsy it to rule out other types of skin disorders.
Although warts usually go away on their own, many people choose to have them removed because they feel it takes too long for them to clear. Some treatments include:
These medicines work by removing layers a little at a time, so repeated applications are necessary.
Liquid nitrogen freezes warts, and multiple treatments are usually necessary.
After shaving the surface of the wart, the doctor applies trichloroacetic acid. This method removes layers at a time, so repeated applications are necessary.
The doctor removes the wart with a scalpel.
Lasers can burn the wart’s blood vessels, causing the wart to fall off.
An HPV vaccination may prevent future outbreaks.