Warts

Alternative Names

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

Definition of Warts

Warts are small, usually painless growths on the skin caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). They are generally harmless. However, warts can be disfiguring and embarrassing, and occasionally they itch or hurt (particularly on the feet).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The typical wart is a raised round or oval growth on the skin with a rough surface. Compared with the surrounding normal skin, warts may appear light, dark, or black (rare). Most adults are familiar with the look of a typical wart and have little trouble recognizing it. Unusual warts with smooth surfaces or flat warts in children may be more difficult for parents to recognize.

Signs and tests

Warts can generally be diagnosed simply by their location and appearance. Your doctor may want to cut into a wart (called a biopsy) to confirm that it is not a corn, callus, skin cancer, or other similar-appearing growth.

Treatment

Over-the-counter medications can remove warts. These are applied to the wart every day for several weeks. Do NOT use these medications on your face or genitals. It helps to file the wart down when damp (for example, after a bath or shower) before applying these medications. Do NOT treat warts on your face or genitals yourself. See your health care provider.

Expectations (prognosis)

Warts are generally harmless growths that often go away on their own within 2 years. They can be contagious, but transmission from person to person is uncommon. Warts may be unsightly or cause discomfort, especially on the feet.

Review

Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 12/11/2009

Warts, multiple - on hands
Warts, flat on the cheek and neck
Wart
Plantar wart
Subungual wart
Wart (close-up)
Wart (verruca) with a cutaneous horn on the toe

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.