wart on finger

Your guide to warts

We’re all prone to getting warts. Interestingly, younger people are more likely to get them than adults.

It’s estimated that 1 in 3 children and teenagers have warts compared to 3 to 5% of adults. Younger people are potentially more susceptible to getting warts because they don’t have fully-developed  immune systems.1

Want to know more about warts? We’ve done our wart research and have answered some other common wart-related questions below. Take a look…

Who gets warts?

Children and teenagers are more prone to getting warts, so too are people who bite their nails.2 It’s been known for people who spend a lot of time with their hands in water, for instance, if you’re a pot washer in a restaurant, to be more likely to develop warts too.3

You can get warts if you bite your nails?

Yes, this can potentially happen. Periungual warts (that tend to develop around fingernails and toenails) are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The virus can get into the body through a cut or scrape, so if you bite your nails or pick your cuticles4, this can create opportunities for HPV to get into your system.5

What causes warts?

How do you get warts? It’s the HPV virus that’s the main culprit for causing warts. However, not everybody who comes into contact with HPV goes on to develop them.

There are 100 different strains of HPV. The virus is responsible for triggering extra cell growth, which makes the outer layer of skin thicker and harder in a particular area (e.g. a patch of skin on your hands or your feet).6

What does a wart look like?

According to NHS guidance, warts:7
  • Feel firm and rough
  • Appear on palms, knuckles, knees and fingers
  • Are round, flat and sometimes yellow in colour
  • Can develop in clusters, most commonly on feet and hands

Are there different types of warts?

Yes, there are. Warts that appear on people’s hands are called Palmar warts and those that appear on people’s feet are known as Plantar warts.8

Types of warts:

  • Common warts – that are usually flesh-coloured and appear on the backs of hands, fingers, around fingernails and on feet. They tend to be small and feel rough and hard.

  • Plantar warts – these are warts that aren’t raised, but develop within your skin. They’re flat, tough and thick and can look very similar to calluses. They usually have black dots on the surface of them.

  • Flat warts – they’re small and smoother than other warts and tend to grow in large numbers, e.g. 20 to 100 at a time. They’re mostly found on children’s faces, men’s beard areas and on women’s legs.

  • Filiform warts – grow quickly and look thread-like and spiky. They tend to develop on the face, around people’s mouths, eyes and nose.

  • Genital warts – they typically look like skin-coloured clusters of bumps that are almost cauliflower-like.

  • Verrucas – are warts that appear on people’s feet and have tiny black dots underneath small patches of hard skin.9

Are warts contagious?

Yes, they can easily spread from person-to-person. They can be spread by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces or close skin contact. Interestingly, they’re more likely to spread if skin is wet or damaged (e.g. cuts and scrapes).10

To prevent warts from spreading:

  • Don't share towels, flannels, socks or shoes if you have a wart or verruca
  • Don't bite your nails or put fingers in your mouth that have warts on (it’s possible the virus can spread from your hands to your face
  • Don't walk barefoot in public places if you’ve got a verruca
  • Don't scratch or pick at your wart, you may cause it to spread

Can you get rid of warts?

Most warts tend to disappear on their own after one to five years and don’t require any medical treatment.11 According to some studies, 50% of warts disappear within a year and 70% go away on their own after two years.12 But some warts don’t just simply vanish. For these types of warts, treatment includes salicylic acid creams and gels or other non-prescription methods, cryotherapy – in which nitrogen is sprayed on to the wart to destroy the cells, laser treatment or minor surgery.13

Last updated: 13 August 2020

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/155039#treatment
  2. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/warts-causes#:~:text=Who%20gets%20warts%3F,virus%20(HPV)%20than%20others.
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/skin-disorders/periungual-warts#causes
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-warts/symptoms-causes/syc-20371125#:~:text=Common%20warts%20are%20caused%20by%20the%20human%20papillomavirus%20(HPV).,are%20acquired%20through%20sexual%20contact.
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/skin-disorders/periungual-warts#causes
  6. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-warts
  7. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/warts-and-verrucas/
  8. https://www.healthline.com/health/skin/warts#genital-warts
  9. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/warts-and-verrucas/
  10. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/warts-and-verrucas/
  11. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/155039
  12. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/155039#treatment
  13. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/155039#treatment
ConditionsSkin Health