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Warts

Definition

Warts are small, usually painless growths on the skin. Most of the time warts are harmless. They are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). Some warts are spread through sex.

Warts may affect your appearance and can be embarrassing. Warts may itch or hurt (particularly on the feet).

Alternative Names

Plane juvenile warts; Periungual warts; Subungual warts; Plantar warts; Verruca; Verrucae planae juveniles; Filiform warts; Verruca vulgaris

Causes

 All warts can spread from one part of your body to another. Warts may be spread from person to person but this is uncommon.

Symptoms

Most warts are raised with a rough surface. They may be round or oval.

Different types of warts include:  

Exams and Tests

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.

Treatment

You can get treatment if you do not like how the wart looks or if it is painful.

Do NOT attempt to remove a wart yourself by burning, cutting, tearing, picking, or any other method.

MEDICINES

Over-the-counter medicines are available to remove warts.

Do NOT use over-the-counter wart medications on your face or genitals. Warts in these areas need to be treated by a health care provider. 

To use wart-removal medicine:

OTHER TREATMENTS

Special foot cushions can help ease the pain due to plantar warts. You can buy these at drug stores without a prescription. Use socks. Wear shoes with plenty of room. Avoid high heels.

Your doctor or nurse may need to trim away thick skin or callus that form over warts on your foot or around nails.

Your health care 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 new medicine called veregen may be used on genital warts as well as other warts.

Outlook (Prognosis)

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. 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

Prevention

References

Warts, herpes simplex, and other viral infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 12.

Kirnbauer R, Lenz P. Human Papillomaviruses. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 79.



Review Date: 11/20/2012
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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