Warts are a type of skin infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The infection causes rough, skin-colored bumps to form on the skin. The virus is contagious. You can get warts from touching someone who has them. Warts most commonly appear on the hands, but they can also affect the feet, face, genitals and knees.
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.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
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.
Wart types vary depending on the affected body part. Types include:
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:
Warts vary in appearance. They may look:
Your doctor can diagnose warts simply by looking at the bumps. Sometimes, your doctor may take a sample of the skin growth (biopsy) to test for HPV.
Warts often go away on their own after your immune system fights off the virus. Because warts can spread, cause pain and be unsightly, your doctor may recommend treatment. Options include:
Most warts go away without any significant problems. Sometimes warts cause issues, such as:
There’s really no way to prevent warts. However, you can lower your risk of picking up the virus or stop warts from spreading by taking these steps:
Once you have the virus, there’s no sure way to keep warts from returning. After treatment, warts can reappear at the same location or a different part of the body. But some people get rid of warts and never have one again.
You should call your provider if the wart:
If you or your child has warts, consider asking your provider:
Warts can be unsightly and embarrassing. The good news is that warts often go away on their own. They also respond well to treatment. The virus that causes warts spreads easily. Be sure to take the necessary steps to prevent warts from infecting other people or other parts of your body. Your doctor can recommend the best at-home or in-office treatment to get rid of warts.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/26/2020.
Learn more about our editorial process.