What are warts?

Warts are noncancerous (benign) rough bumps that form on the skin. They develop when the human papillomavirus, or HPV, enters a cut or break in the skin and causes an infection.

Who might get warts?

Children are more prone to warts because they get a lot of cuts. Still, anyone can get warts. People with autoimmune disease or weakened immune systems, including the elderly, are more susceptible to the virus that causes warts.

What are the types of warts?

Wart types vary depending on the affected body part. Types include:

  • Hands: These warts are called common warts because they are the most common type.
  • Face: Flat warts affect the face and forehead.
  • Feet: Plantar warts appear on the soles of the feet. These warts look like calluses with tiny black dots in the center. They are often painful and form in clusters.
  • Genitals: Warts that form on the penis, vagina or rectum are called genital warts. These warts are a type of sexually transmitted infection. You get genital warts through sexual contact with an infected person.
  • Periungual and subungual: These warts form under or around fingernails and toenails.

What causes warts?

When the human papillomavirus (HPV) enters a cut in the skin, it causes a skin infection that forms warts. Warts are very contagious. The virus can spread from person to person or from different parts of the body through:

  • Direct contact with a wart.
  • Touching something contaminated with the virus, such as towels, doorknobs and shower floors.
  • Sexual intercourse (genital warts).
  • Nail biting and cuticle picking.
  • Shaving.

What are the symptoms of warts?

Warts vary in appearance. They may look:

  • Dome-shaped.
  • Flat.
  • Rough.
  • Skin-colored, brown, grey or black.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/26/2020.

References

  • American Academy of Dermatology. Warts: Overview. Accessed 5/4/2020.
  • American Academy of Family Physicians. Warts. Accessed 5/4/2020.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Warts. Accessed 5/4/2020.

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