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Warts: Types, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Warts are small, hard and rough skin growths that are commonly found on the fingers, hands and legs. They develop in the same colour as that of the skin complexion and can be found in other parts of the body as well. Warts are not cancerous and are not dangerous to your health. These infections that affect the skin are rough and in some cases, develop as tiny black dots[1] . These dots are clotted blood vessels.

Caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) [2] , warts have been in existence for thousands of years. There are more than 100 types of HPV, and these normally causes warts that are harmless. But there are some strains of HPV that causes warts on and in the genitals, which can elevate to serious conditions such as cervical cancer.

The grainy bump is contagious and can be transmitted through touch. Individuals with low immune system [3] are increasingly at the risk of contracting the HPV. Warts are naturally common and a large percentage of the population have been affected by HPV at one point in their lifetime. The skin growth is increasingly found in young individuals.

Types Of Warts

The contagious growth on the skin is classified into six different types according to the parts of your body it develops on.

1. Common warts or verruca vulgaris

These types of wart usually grow on the toes and the fingers [4] . But it is not just limited to that area, as it can appear on any part of the body. Common warts are rough and grainy in appearance and have a rounded top. The warts will be grey in colour and will be darker than the surrounding skin.

2. Plantar warts

These grow on the soles of the feet. Different from the other type of warts, this type of warts do not grow out of the skin but grows into the skin. Plantar warts [5] are easy to notice as it will develop in the form of a small hole at the bottom of your foot. The skin around the wart will be hard. This type of wart cause restriction in ease of walking, as placing the foot with the wart on the ground will cause extreme pain.

3. Flat warts

These warts are found on the thighs, arms and face. Flat warts[6] grow in small sizes and cannot be noticed immediately. These warts develop with flat tops, which looks like it has been scraped off from the top. It can vary from light pink, brown to slightly yellow in colour.

4. Filiform warts

These type of warts grow around the nose or the mouth. Filiform warts [7] can develop on the neck and on your chin. It appears on the under part of your skin. These warts are shaped like small flaps or like tags of skin and appear as the same colour as that of your skin.

5. Periungual warts

These grow under your toenails and fingernails. It also appears [8] around your nails. Periungual warts can be extremely painful and it affects the healthy growth of your skin.

6. Genital warts

These type of warts are commonly found in women [9] . Genital warts develop on, inside or around the genitals and are extremely uncomfortable and in some cases, extremely painful. In the case of women, genital warts can be dangerous as it develops into cervical cancer [10] . In rare cases, men can develop anal cancer or cancer of the penis glans.

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Causes Of Warts

The singular and the only reason that causes warts are HPV[11] . The virus causes the rapid growth of keratin, which in turn develops as a hard protein layer on top of the skin. The aforementioned different types of warts are caused by different types of HPV strains.

The condition is contagious, that is, it can spread when one comes in contact with an individual who has warts. It is spread through close skin to skin contact[12] . Each individual's immune system responds differently to the HPV.

The wart causing bacteria can transfer from one individual to the other through various means, such as

  • sucking fingers
  • scratching a wart
  • shaving the face or legs, and
  • biting fingernails, that has warts around.

Likewise, wet or damaged skin can cause the condition to develop quickly, especially when it comes in contact with rough surfaces[13] .

Tips To Treat Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection Naturally At Home

When To See A Doctor

Although warts are not dangerous and do not cause much discomfort to your daily activities, it can become worse in some cases. You must consult a doctor [14] if you are facing certain signs such as

  • warts on the face or other sensitive parts of your body like the mouth, nostril or genitals,
  • if the wart is painful,
  • the colour of the water changes,
  • there are symptoms such as pus or scab around the wart, or bleeding,
  • if you are suffering from conditions such as low immunity or HIV/AIDS [15] ,
  • it comes back even after removal,
  • if it affects your day to day activities and actions (walking, running etc.), and
  • if it spreads to other parts of the body [16] .

Diagnosis Of Warts

In order to examine the hard growth on the surface of your skin, the doctor will carry out certain techniques[17] .

  • Removing a small part of the wart and sending it to a laboratory for analysis, so as to rule out other types of skin growths. This is called a shave biopsy [18] .
  • Removing or scraping off the top layer of the wart, in order to check for dark marks or clotted blood vessels in dotted forms.
  • The doctor will carry out a physical examination which will involve closely examining the wart.

Home Remedies For Warts

In most cases, people tend to adopt measures that are easier to execute by themselves in treating warts. A lot of people adopt home remedies, as it has been proven effective in many cases. The home remedies include the following measures.

1. Treatments and patches containing salicylic acid

Also termed as peeling medicine, these non-prescription products for wart removal [19] are available in the form of patches, ointments, pads and in liquid form. Use these products on a daily basis, till the size of warts reduces [20] . You can also apply the product after soaking the affected area in warm water for a few minutes, as it seems to have an elevated impact on treating warts. Scrape or file away the dead skin using a pumice stone [21] .

2. Duct tape

You can use silver duct tape as a treatment measure [22] . Cover the affected area with the duct tape for a period of six days. Then, soak the covered area in warm water and remove the dead tissues using a pumice stone. Leave the wart uncovered for about 12 hours and repeat the process. You will need to continue the process in several rounds for the treatment to be effective [23] .

3. Freezing treatments

Liquid nitrogen products can be used in this process. These are available in liquid and spray form and are non-prescription [24] . Applying the products will help kill the affected skin, which can be removed by scraping it off.

Treatment For Warts

Mostly, these infections on the skin go away without the need of any treatments. But the chances of the warts recurring are high.

1. Laser treatment

Pulsed-dye laser treatment is highly effective as it burns the clotted blood vessels[25] . This causes the infected tissue to die, resulting in the wart eventually falling off. This treatment method may cause pain and leave scars.

2. Freezing (cryotherapy)

Unlike the technique that can be done as a home remedy, this one involves the doctor applying liquid nitrogen onto the wart. It develops a blister around and under the wart, and causes the wart to fall off within a period of one week, or more. Studies have pointed out that freezing [26] helps in boosting your immune system to fight against the virus.

Freezing has side effects such as pain, blistering and discoloured skin.

3. Other acids

If salicylic acid fails to be effective, your doctor may use trichloroacetic acid on the wart. This will be done by applying the acid to the wart, after the surface of the wart is shaved. The treatment must be repeated to get effective results.

4. Surgery

Under this treatment method, your doctor will remove the tissue that is affected by the wart. It is not major surgery but a minor one. It can leave a scar in the area [27] .


You can stop warts from spreading to other parts of your body. Being contagious, once it pops up, it will eventually spread to all parts of your body causing discomfort and even pain. You can prevent the onset of warts by considering the following measures [28] .

  • Wash your hands regularly, especially if you've been in contact with someone who has warts.
  • Do not pick at or scratch your warts.
  • Cover the warts with a bandage [11] .
  • Always keep your hands and feet dry.
  • Wear flip-flops when in a communal bathing facility or avoid using public washrooms.
  • Do not use other people's towels or personal items.
  • Do not share your socks or shoes with other people.

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View Article References
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