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Common warts

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Apr 30, 2022.

Overview

Common warts are small, grainy skin growths that occur most often on your fingers or hands. Rough to the touch, common warts also often feature a pattern of tiny black dots, which are small, clotted blood vessels.

Common warts are caused by a virus and are transmitted by touch. It can take a wart as long as two to six months to develop after your skin has been exposed to the virus. Common warts are usually harmless and eventually disappear on their own. But many people choose to remove them because they find them bothersome or embarrassing.

Common warts

Common warts can grow on your hands or fingers. They're small, grainy bumps that are rough to the touch.

Symptoms

Common warts usually occur on your fingers or hands and may be:

When to see a doctor

See your doctor for common warts if:

Causes

Common warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus is quite common and has more than 150 types, but only a few cause warts on your hands. Some strains of HPV are acquired through sexual contact. Most forms, however, are spread by casual skin contact or through shared objects, such as towels or washcloths. The virus usually spreads through breaks in your skin, such as a hangnail or a scrape. Biting your nails also can cause warts to spread on your fingertips and around your nails.

Each person's immune system responds to the HPV virus differently, so not everyone who comes in contact with HPV develops warts.

Risk factors

People at higher risk of developing common warts include:

Prevention

To reduce your risk of common warts:

Diagnosis

In most cases, your doctor can diagnose a common wart with one or more of these techniques:

Treatment

Most common warts go away without treatment, though it may take a year or two and new ones may develop nearby. Some people choose to have their warts treated by a doctor because home treatment isn't working and the warts are bothersome, spreading or a cosmetic concern.

The goals of treatment are to destroy the wart, stimulate an immune system response to fight the virus, or both. Treatment may take weeks or months. Even with treatment, warts tend to recur or spread. Doctors generally start with the least painful methods, especially when treating young children.

Your doctor may suggest one of the following approaches, based on the location of your warts, your symptoms and your preferences. These methods are sometimes used in combination with home treatments, such as salicylic acid.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Home treatment is often effective in removing common warts. Unless you have an impaired immune system or diabetes, try these methods:

Preparing for an appointment

You'll likely start by seeing your primary care doctor. But you may be referred to a specialist in disorders of the skin (dermatologist). The following tips can help you prepare for your appointment.

What you can do

Bring a list of all medications you take regularly — including over-the-counter (nonprescription) medications and dietary supplements — and the daily dosage of each.

You may also want to list questions for your doctor, such as:

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor may also have some questions for you, such as:

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