Reviewed by Dr Claudia Pastides, 25th April 2019
Warts are hard, rough bumps which can appear anywhere on the body. The most common locations for them to occur are the hands, knees and face - but they can also appear under the arms and on the soles of the feet (known as a verruca). Warts can appear one at a time, or they can present in small clusters. They’re totally harmless, but warts can cause embarrassment, especially if they’re located somewhere that’s hard to cover up and sometimes they can be painful too.
Symptoms of warts
Every wart is different - but the most common warts share a set of characteristics which help doctors to diagnose them properly. Here’s what to look out for if you think you might have developed a wart:
- A raised, grainy bump on the skin
- The bump will usually be flesh-coloured
- Slightly rough to the touch
- Warts on the feet (verrucas) often have tiny black dots under the hard skin
You can also suffer from warts that present slightly differently. Some may be flat and round, with a yellowish tinge, or they may appear in small clusters. If you’ve noticed a growth and are concerned it may be a wart, speak to a doctor.
What causes warts?
Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus - also known as HPV. HPV comes in dozens of different forms, and everyone’s immune system responds to the virus differently. Not everyone who comes into contact with HPV will develop warts. Warts are also contagious - they can be contracted through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has warts, or by sharing towels or exercise equipment.
Treatment for warts
There is no need to treat warts if they are not causing you any problems. Most warts will disappear themselves over time but this can take a few years. However if they are troublesome or conspicuous and you would like to treat them there are different options.
Most mild warts can be treated at home with a variety of over-the-counter creams, gels and medicated plasters. For more serious warts (for example, recurring warts, warts that bleed, or warts on the face or genitals), you should see a doctor. Specialist treatment for these warts include:
- Freezing - a doctor will apply liquid nitrogen to the wart, causing it to fall off within weeks.
- Salicylic acid - this causes the wart to peel off, layer by layer.
- Laser treatment - lasers cauterise the blood vessel around the wart, starving it of oxygen and eventually causing it to die and fall off.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.