Warts: Types of Warts and Treatments

Warts are small, noncancerous growths that appear when the skin is infected with some virus. We tell you what types there are, where they come from and how they can be treated.

Warts are small bumps that can appear anywhere. They are usually the result of a viral infection. The many viruses in the human papillomavirus (HPV) family are generally behind most wart appearances.

This type of virus triggers additional cell growth, making the skin’s outer layer thick and complicated in that place. While they can grow anywhere there is skin; they are more likely to appear on the hands or feet. The type of wart depends on where it is and what it looks like.

Because everyone’s immune system responds differently to the virus, not everyone who comes into contact with HPV has warts. Also, if a person cuts or damages their skin, it is easier for the virus to take hold. That’s why people with chronic skin conditions, such as eczema, or who bite their nails or itch on their nails are prone to getting warts.

Children and teens acquire more warts than adults because their immune systems have not developed defenses against the many types of HPV. People with weakened immune systems, such as HIV or who take biological drugs for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis are also more susceptible to warts because their bodies may be unable to fight them.

How warts spread

Warts are highly contagious and are mainly transmitted by direct contact with the skin, such as when you touch warts and then touch another area of the body. They can also be extended with towels or razor blades that have touched a wart on your or someone else’s body.

These flesh-colored growths appear most commonly on the backs of the hands, fingers, and skin around the nails and feet. Warts are usually small, from the size of a pinhead to a pea, and have a rugged build.

Warts may have blackheads that look like seeds and are tiny blood clots. They usually appear where the skin broke, perhaps from biting your nails.

Types of warts

Plantar wart

Do you feel like you have China in your shoe? Check the soles of your feet. This is a common type of wart called plantar warts or plantar warts. These warts got their name because “plantar” means “of the sole” in Latin.

Unlike other warts, the pressure of walking and standing causes them to grow on your skin. It can appear only once or in a group called mosaic warts. Because they are flat, sturdy and thick, it is easy to mistake them for calluses. Look for black dots on the surface to confirm that they are warts.

Flat wart

The advantage of these warts is that they are smaller, not thicker than a phone’s charging cable, and softer than other types. The bad thing about this type of wart is that it grows in large numbers, often 20 to 100 at a time. Flat warts can appear on children’s faces, men’s beard areas, and women’s legs.

Filiform warts

These fast-growing warts look like a pointed surface, sometimes like small brushes. Because they tend to grow on the face (around the mouth, eyes, and nose), they can be annoying, although they don’t usually hurt.

Genital warts

As you might expect, genital warts appear when having sex with someone infected. They may appear as small, scattered bumps, skin color, or as a cluster of cauliflower-like nodes. These warts spread even if you can’t see them.

Don’t try to get rid of genital warts by yourself. They can be challenging to treat. Other types of HPV that could cause cancer can also be sexually transmitted through oral and anal sex. In this case, it is best to go to your doctor for proper treatment.

How long do warts take to disappear?

Over time, the body will often create resistance and fight warts. But it can take months or up to 2 years for them to disappear. In adults, warts often remain even longer, perhaps several years. Also, some warts will never go away. Doctors aren’t sure why some go away, and some don’t.

Most warts are harmless, and you don’t need to do anything unless they are painful or embarrassing. However, waiting for them to disappear could be counterproductive: a wart could increase in size or cause new warts appearance. In addition, you could spread them to another person. The best treatment depends on your age, health, and type of wart. But there is no cure for HPV, so some viruses could remain on the skin after the wart is gone.

Types of treatments

Peeling with over-the-counter products

Over-the-counter gels, liquids, and pads with salicylic acid work by peeling off dead skin cells from the wart to dissolve them gradually. For best results, it is recommended to immerse the wart in warm water and gently sand the area before applying the product. This process can take several months.


For adults and older children with common warts, your doctor will likely want to freeze them with liquid nitrogen. Because nitrogen is so cold, it can cause stabbing pain for a while, so it is not used for young children. You will likely need more than one session. It works best when you continue with a salicylic acid treatment after the area heals. Cryosurgery can cause light spots in people who have dark skin.

Painting the wart

“Painting a wart” is possible with a liquid that forms a blister under the wart, lifting it from the skin. The wart comes off the blistered skin when the blister dries (after about a week). This is the most common way to treat young children because it doesn’t hurt at first, although it can cause tingling, itching, burns, or swelling a few hours later.

Burning and cutting

Doctors may use one or both methods after numbing the area. Electrosurgery burns the wart with an electrical charge through a needle. It is suitable for common warts, filiform warts and foot warts. Your doctor may also use a laser. You can also scrape the wart with a sharp knife or a small spoon-shaped tool. Another option is excision, cutting the wart with a sharp blade.

Prescription creams

Exfoliating creams with glycolic acid, more vital salicylic acid, or tretinoin could help treat some warts. diphencyprone (DPCP) and imiquimod (Aldara) irritate your skin to encourage the immune system. You can also use Fluorouracil, an anticancer drug that can stop your body from producing extra cells in your skin in the same way it prevents tumors from growing.


Your doctor may use a needle to put the medicine on the wart. Doctors usually inject bleomycin, an anticancer drug that prevents infected cells from producing more. Interferon boosts the immune system to fight HPV better, usually for genital warts.