Common warts are raised bumps of rough, grainy skin which appear most often on the hands, feet, or face. They are caused by one of a few strains of the HPV virus, all of which are transmitted through physical touch. These small, noncancerous growths can take as long as several months after HPV infection to appear on the skin and will usually go away on their own, but a dermatologist can assist in removal for patients who find them unsightly or embarrassing.
Infection with certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) will cause an excess of keratin (a hard protein also found in hair and nails) to accumulate on the outermost layer of the skin. This protein is what causes common warts to have a tough, scaly texture. Infection with HPV occurs from skin-to-skin contact or use of shared objects. Cuts, breaks, or abrasions in the skin are particularly common to infection.
Warts appear as small, round bumps on the surface of the skin. The surface of warts usually feels tough and scaly to the touch. They are not usually painful unless picked at, which can cause them to crack and bleed. However, if you do notice pain, bleeding, or any changes in the shape or color of a wart, you should contact a doctor immediately.
Broken or cut skin is most vulnerable to HPV infection, so common warts frequently appear on regularly shaved parts of the body like the legs or beard area. Biting your nails or other habits that pick at the skin can also increase the risk of developing warts. You may also be at a higher risk if you have a weakened immune system due to something like an autoimmune disorder or certain medications.
A dermatologist is usually able to diagnose warts clinically through a visual examination of the affected area. Infrequently, your dermatologist may call for a skin biopsy to verify the diagnosis.
Possible treatments for common warts include:
Warts are spread through contact either skin-to-skin or through a common surface, so hygienic practices like wearing flip flops in public showers or locker rooms or just regularly showering and washing your hands can help. If you have warts, you should avoid picking at them, which can cause bleeding and increase the likelihood of spreading the virus to other areas.
While warts will usually go away on their own eventually, this often takes over a year or two without any intervention. Warts do not pose any health risks, but may be annoying or embarrassing. If a wart is bothering you, don’t hesitate to contact a dermatologist to get it diagnosed and removed.