Worry Warts: Common Causes and Symptoms of Warts

May 7th 2016

Warts are a common illness and are usually harmless, but treatment is important to prevent them from spreading. If you develop a wart, use one of many over-the-counter remedies to safely and effectively remove it.

Causes of Warts

All warts are caused by the human papillomavirus, a common virus with many strains. There is no cure for HPV, although warts usually clear up over time even when left untreated. However, the virus still lives in your body and outbreaks of warts may reoccur. The virus is spread by contact, which usually takes the form of direct contact with someone else's warts. However, you can also get the virus through indirect contact, such as by using the same towel a person with warts has used. Warts can also spread to other parts of your body if you touch them and then touch unaffected skin.

Warts can appear anywhere on the body, though some strains tend to appear in certain areas. Genital warts are a common example of this, with about 40 strains that target the genital areas of both men and women. Common warts often appear near where the virus entered the body, which is why warts often appear on hands.

Common Symptoms

Some people infected with HPV never see any visible warts or other symptoms. When warts do appear, they are usually small, round growths. They are often flat and smooth, although some stick out more and have a bumpy surface. The skin is usually brownish, and you may be able to see small black dots in it. These dots, called seeds, are blood vessels feeding the wart. Warts are usually painless. They may appear as a single growth or as clusters.

Plantar warts, which are warts that occur on the soles of the feet, have similar visible symptoms, but they often grow inward due to pressure from walking. This can result in pain and discomfort.

People with compromised immune systems, such as people suffering from HIV, may develop a type of wart called a filiform. These warts often grow rapidly, and they may develop thin growths that look like tendrils. This occurs because the person's immune system is unable to fight the virus.


Most warts can be diagnosed by sight, even by lay people. Doctors also usually visually inspect the wart to diagnose it. However, warts with unusual appearances or that bleed or are unusually painful may need to be biopsied to rule out other conditions. This is a simple procedure where the doctor takes a sample of the tissue.

If you develop a wart, it is usually safe to treat it over the counter. However, see your doctor if the wart does not go away after a month or two of at-home treatment. You should also see a doctor if you have a compromised immune system.


Warts are a common problem. Although they are mostly harmless, they can be unsightly and contagious. Anyone can get warts, so learning to recognize them is important.

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