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About Warts

Did you know that warts are common worldwide and approximately affect 10% of the population? They can occur at any age and are more common in immunocompromised patients. The prevalence of warts in school-aged children is around 10-20%.

Getting vaccinated with the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine can prevent you from getting warts. Before the development of the vaccine, genital warts (a wart type) affected 340,000 to 360,000 people yearly.

If you don’t know about warts, don’t worry because we have covered everything related to this condition.

Warts, also known as common warts, are small lumpy blister-like skin growths that typically occur on the hands or feet. The blisters can appear singly or in clusters. However, warts can occur on any part of the body and can be named according to their type, shape, or body area. For example, warts occurring on the genitals are called genital warts.

Causes Of Warts

Warts are caused by a virus known as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). When the virus enters a person’s skin through a cut or any other way, it can develop a skin infection, leading to warts. The virus produces an excess amount of protein called keratin on your skin. The rough and hard texture of the wart is because of the protein keratin. Human Papilloma Virus has more than 150 strains, out of which a few can cause warts. But all types of warts are caused by HPV.

Every person’s immune system has its own infection-fighting capabilities. Hence, the way your immune system will respond to HPV can be different. Not everyone catching the virus develops warts. If you have a weakened immune system or are young, the chances of getting the virus may increase.

The different strains of HPV can spread in the following ways:

  • Some HPV strains are caught through sexual contact.
  • Other strains can spread through skin contact.
  • Some HPV types are acquired through sharing personal use objects like clothes or towels.
  • Nail-biting can spread HPV to other parts of your skin.
  • Cuts in your skin can spread HPV.

There are several types of warts, and each of them is caused by different HPV strains. For example:

  • Myrmecia-type plantar warts are caused by HPV type 1.
  • Mosaic-type plantar warts are caused by HPV type 2.
  • Flat warts are commonly caused by HPV types 3, 10, and 28.

Stress can also cause warts. It releases hormones in your body, which weakens the immune system. A weakened immune system diminishes the ability to fight off the human papillomavirus.

Popular treatments

Read more about popular treatments and over-the-counter products on our Warts Treatment page. 

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Are Warts Contagious?

Yes – warts can be contagious, but they are not severely contagious like other diseases, for example, scabies. All types of warts can be contagious. They can spread through direct skin contact or contaminated objects or surfaces.

Sexual contact may also spread warts, for example, genital warts. Warts can be contagious as long as they are present in your body.
Warts can spread in the following ways: 

  • Body spread
  • Person-to-person spread
  • Surface-to-person spread

You are likely to get affected by the virus if your skin is burned, cut, infected, or wet. This is because the virus loves warm and moist environments. HPV can live on surfaces for up to six months. To eliminate warts from surfaces, using disinfectants like 90% ethanol, hypochlorites, and substances containing peracetic acid and silver for at least 1 minute is recommended.

After you get infected, it may take weeks or even months for warts to appear on your skin.

Tips To Prevent Warts From Spreading

Warts can spread, but you can take some measures to prevent warts from spreading. Here are some tips to stop warts from spreading:

  • Cover your warts. It will prevent it from spreading to other people and other parts of your body.
  • Avoid frequently touching other areas of your body
  • Avoid shaving warts. Shaving creates microtears in your skin which can spread the virus.
  • Prevent warts from getting infected. Wash warts immediately after touching it.
  • HPV easily spreads through a cut or scratch. Prevent yourself from nail-biting or getting a cut. Do not scratch your skin. This will spread HPV to other parts of your body.
  • If someone around you has warts, avoid touching it or using their personal objects.
  • If you have warts, do not share your belongings with others in the house. Make sure everyone has their own towels, razors, washcloths, socks, and other personal-use objects.
  • Do not walk barefoot at home or in public.
  • Avoid using public bathrooms if you have warts.
  • Always wear clean and dry shoes, socks, or panties.

How To Recognize Warts - Diagnosis Of Warts

You can initially diagnose warts based on their signs and symptoms. However, to confirm its diagnosis and differentiate it from other skin conditions, you can consult a healthcare professional. In this section, we will see in detail how the diagnosis of warts is performed by healthcare providers. You may need to consult a dermatologist for a detailed warts examination.

Your doctor will diagnose warts using one or more of the following methods. If they are confusing, your healthcare provider will use more than one technique to confirm warts.

  • First doctor will ask questions about your health history to diagnose warts. For example, your sexual history can make diagnosing genital warts easier.
  • To make warts more visible, your healthcare provider may undergo an acetowhite test by applying a mild acetic solution to your warts. It will cause a burning sensation but make warts visible for physical examination.
  • Physical examination of warts. This is the first and most common step to recognizing warts. The doctor will physically examine warts by looking and sensing your entire area with warts. Physical examination is also done by using bright light and magnification.
  • To further identify warts, your doctor may cut off the top layer of your warts to check for symptoms like black spots, clotted blood vessels, or pinpoint dots.
  • If warts are still not confirmed by the above two methods, a skin biopsy may be performed. A biopsy is removing a part from your warts and sending it to the laboratory for further analysis. At the lab, your warts will be checked under a microscope. A biopsy is a quick and safe procedure that confirms warts, but it is rarely needed because other methods are sufficient to diagnose warts.

Common Tests To Diagnose Warts

Diagnosing external warts is easy. But a diagnosis of internal warts may need one or more professional tests. Some standard tests for external warts diagnosis are:

1.    Blood Tests

Blood tests are commonly done to confirm genital warts. They identify sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) associated with genital warts. Some STDs are responsible for causing genital warts, including chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

2.    Pelvic Exam

Pelvic exams are generally done in females with genital warts. A pelvic exam includes a pap test to identify changes in the cervical caused by genital warts. Another test known as colposcopy can also be done for more closer cervical examination.

3.    Anal Exam

As the name indicates, an anal exam identifies warts in the anus. A device known as an anoscope is used to look for warts inside the anus.

4.    Biopsy

As we discussed, a biopsy cuts out and removes a tiny piece of warts for laboratory examination.

5.    DNA Test

The DNA test is done by taking cells from your cervix. The cells are used to recognize high-risk DNA that causes HPV. The DNA test is also done to diagnose external warts in or around the anal and genitals.