What is a wart?

Warts are a benign skin condition that are typically characterized by rough, small, hard, skin-colored growths. The condition is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) that infects the top layer of skin.

Warts are contagious and can be spread by contact with someone who has a wart or something that touched the wart. Warts can be identified by your primary care provider, but are most commonly treated by a dermatologist.

Common related conditions
Genital Warts Molluscum Contagiosum

Causes of warts

Warts are an infection of the top layer of skin. The virus is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). If you have a cut on your skin and come into contact with the HPV virus, it can enter through the outer layer of the skin and develop into a wart.

Although everyone comes into contact with HPV during their lifetimes, some people are more prone to developing warts. Most likely this is due each individual’s response to the virus.

You can also get a wart by touching the something that another person with a wart touched, such as a towel or a toy.

Risk factors for warts

You are more likely to develop warts if you are a child or young adult or if you have a weakened immune system.

Symptoms of warts

Signs and symptoms of warts vary depending on the type of wart you have. Some warts are rough and some are flat and smooth. Most warts have tiny blood vessels that look like dots in the wart’s center.

Warts typically are painless unless it has grown on a spot that is used frequently, such as the bottom of the foot or on the finger.

Diagnosis of warts

Your primary care physician can diagnose a wart in a physical exam. To confirm the diagnosis, he or she may take a skin or shave biopsy.

Treatments for warts

Most warts do not require treatment. If your warts are painful or you would like them removed, there are a variety of treatments including:

  • Cryotherapy — freezing the wart off
  • Electrosurgery, curettage or laser surgery — surgically removing the wart
  • Salicylic acid — a medication that breaks down the top layer of skin on top of the wart

Find a primary care doctor nearby

Mercy Health locations that can treat you