Things to Know About Identifying, Treating, and Preventing Common Warts

If you're like most people, you've likely had a wart or two in your life. Common warts are true to their name: they are very common. They aren't dangerous, but they can be contagious. Therefore, you may need help from a dermatologist. If you are experiencing your first wart and aren't sure what it is, here is more information about their identification, treatment, and prevention.

What Are Common Warts?

Common warts look like raised round or oval bumps of skin with a flat top. They are usually the same color as your skin. Most common warts occur on your hands, elbows, and knees with the hands, especially the fingers. Warts on the bottom of your feet are called plantar warts and usually look different. You can also get genital warts.

What Causes Common Warts?

Nearly all warts that affect humans are caused by one of many human papillomaviruses or HPV. While some of these viruses cause benign warts, others can cause cancer. The HPVs that cause warts are highly contagious and easily spread. Simply touching a surface or shaking hands with someone who has a wart could potentially spread the virus. Warts generally show up within six months of infection.

What Treatments Help With Common Warts?

Many warts go away on their own within 18 months. You can treat the ones that don't go away with over-the-counter treatments provided the wart is not in a sensitive area. If OTC treatments do not work, then a dermatologist can provide more effective and permanent removal techniques. You should also see a dermatologist if your warts go through an unusual change in shape or begin to hurt.

What Measures Prevent Common Warts?

The best way to prevent warts is by not touching them or a contaminated surface. If you accidentally touch one, wash your hands as soon as possible. If you already have a wart, keep your hands away from them. Do not pick at them or your fingernails. Warts are more likely to infect an open cut or sore. Avoid shaving or brushing over a wart, as this could spread the virus further.

If you have what you think might be a wart, and it's not going away on its own, then contact a dermatologist for a diagnosis. You should also seek help if you have a lot of warts or warts in sensitive areas. Warts can spread through contact with common objects and touching. So, protect others if you suspect you have a wart until you get a diagnosis.