Warts: An Overview Image

Many people will develop warts at some point in their lives. Warts can be embarrassing and sometimes painful, and occasionally may cause more serious health problems. While some warts may go away on their own or respond to at-home treatment, different wart types may require medical attention or even surgical removal.

What Are Warts?

Warts are skin growths, often found on the hands and feet. However, warts can occur all over the human body, including on the face, under the fingernails and toenails and in the genital area.

Warts are one of the most common skin problems. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that in 2008, 385,000 people saw a doctor for genital warts alone. You can get warts at any age, although they are more frequent in young people and children, and those with impaired immune systems.

Warts can be flat, dark and smooth, skin-colored and rough, or long and cylinder-shaped, depending on the type of wart and where it is located.

What Are the Causes of Warts?

No matter what the other kids told you on the playground, handling frogs is not one of the causes of warts.

Although many different wart types exist, they all have the same basic cause: the human papillomavirus (HPV). However, many different strains of the HPV virus cause warts, and different strains cause different wart types. Numerous wart-causing HPV strains have been identified.

Warts spread on contact, and they grow more readily on disturbed skin. Every individual will react in a unique way to the HPV virus, so it’s possible that you might not develop warts even if you’ve had direct contact with the virus.

Different Wart Types

A number of different wart types exist, including these common kinds of warts:

Treatment for Warts

Many warts heal themselves over time, or can be treated with over-the-counter preparations. However, as with any skin growth, it’s best to see a doctor to make sure you get the right treatment for different wart types.

No matter what treatment for warts you select, it’s good to remember that they all require patience; no method will get rid of warts overnight. Common treatment for warts include:

  • Bleomycin
  • Cantharidin
  • Cryotherapy
  • Duct tape
  • Electrosurgery
  • Immunotherapy
  • Interferon
  • Lasers
  • Natural or folk remedies
  • Salicylic acid.


American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). Warts. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from: http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/common_warts.html.

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. (2010). Warts. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from: http://www.aocd.org/skin/dermatologic_diseases/warts.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Sexually transmitted diseases surveillance, 2008. Retrieved April 23, 2010, from: http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats08/tables/43.htm.

Warts Information Center. (2010). Warts. Retrieved April 19, 2010, from: http://www.warts.org/.