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What are warts?

Warts are noncancerous skin growths caused by the papillomavirus. Warts are more common in children than adults, although they can develop at any age. Warts can spread to other parts of the body and to other people. There are many different types of warts, due to many different papillomavirus types (more than 100). Warts usually aren't painful, except when located on the feet. Most warts go away, without treatment, over an extended period of time.

Common types of warts

The following are the more common types of warts:

Common warts

Growths around nails and the back of hands; usually have a rough surface; grayish-yellow or brown in color

Hand and foot warts

Located on the soles of feet (plantar warts) or the palms of the hand (palmar warts) with black dots (clotted blood vessels that once fed them); clusters of plantar warts are called mosaic; can be painful

Flat warts

Small, smooth growths that grow in groups up to 100 at a time; most often appear on children's faces

Genital warts

Grow on the genitals and are usually sexually transmitted; are soft and don't have a rough surface like other common warts

Filiform warts

Small, long, narrow growths that usually appear on eyelids, face, or neck

What is the treatment for warts?

Specific treatment for warts will be discussed with you by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the growths

  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the growths

  • Your opinion or preference

Warts often disappear without treatment. Treatment of warts depends on several factors, including:

  • Length of time on the skin

  • Location

  • Type

  • Severity

Treatment may include:

  • Application of salicylic and lactic acid (to soften the infected area)

  • Freezing with liquid nitrogen

  • Electrodesiccation (to destroy the wart with an electrical current)

  • Immunotherapy

  • Laser surgery

  • Prescription creams, such as imiquimod 

  • Surgical removal