Warts

Warts and verrucas are small, hard, scaly lumps which form on the skin, usually the hands or feet. They are benign lumps that are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes overproduction of keratin (protein in the skin), resulting in a wart.

Types of warts

There are different types of warts and their appearance depends upon what area of the body they develop on. One example of this is warts which develop on the soles of the feet which are known as verrucas (plantar warts).

Other types include:

  • Plane warts
  • Mosaic warts
  • Common warts
  • Filiform warts
  • Periungal warts

Plane warts

These are smooth, round and yellow coloured. They mainly develop in young children and women. Often develop on the legs, hands and face.

Mosaic warts

They develop in groups or clusters on the palms of the hands or the feet.

Common warts

These are the most popular type of wart. They are small, round lumps which are raised above the skin and develop on the fingers, knuckles or knees.

Filiform warts

They are long and slim in appearance. They usually develop on the face, neck or nose.

Periungal warts

These warts also have a rough surface and develop on the fingernails/toenails. They can distort the shape of both sets of nails.

Causes of warts

Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) which exists inside the cells of a wart. There are numerous strains of this virus which cause different types of warts.

Are warts dangerous?

Warts are harmless things but there are a few types which may turn malignant (cancerous). These include large warts, warts which are growing at a rapid rate and those which do not fit into any of the groups mentioned above.

How do warts develop?

The HPV virus is transmitted from one person to another via direct contact. But it can also be transmitted through contact with infected bedding, towels or clothing.

Warts can spread to another area of your body as a result of scratching; licking your fingers which contain warts or shaving your legs.

Symptoms of warts

There are different types of warts which range from small, round, scaly lumps through to long, slim spots.

Find out more in our types of warts section.

Diagnosing warts

They are very easy to detect. Your GP will determine which type of wart you have by the shape, colour and size. He or she will look at how many warts you have and where they have developed on your body.

Note: if you have a wart on your foot which is small and round with a black centre then this likely to be a verruca.

But your GP will want to be certain that these warts are not associated with other skin conditions such as moles or squamous cell carcinoma.

He/she will refer you to a dermatologist if necessary but most cases can be treated by your GP.

Treatment for warts

Most types of warts clear up without need for treatment. But this is not the case in people with a compromised immune system who also find that their warts don’t respond very well to treatment.

If your wart is painful, embarrassing or affecting your confidence then consider having treatment.

Treatment options include:

  • Surgery
  • Duct tape
  • Products which contain salicylic acid
  • Chemical medications
  • Cryotherapy

These are also discussed in our verrucas section.

Warts and pregnancy

You can undergo treatment for warts when pregnant which includes duct tape, salicylic acid and cryotherapy. But you may prefer to wait until after the birth of your child. Some treatments such as cryotherapy can be painful, resulting in blisters and infection.