Common warts are small, grainy skin growths that occur most often on your fingers or hands. Rough to the touch, common warts also often feature a pattern of tiny black dots, sometimes called seeds, which are small, clotted blood vessels.
Common warts are caused by a virus and are transmitted by touch. Children and young adults are more likely to develop common warts, as are people who have weakened immune systems. Common warts usually disappear on their own, but many people choose to remove them because they find them bothersome or embarrassing.
Common warts are:
- Small, fleshy, grainy bumps
- Flesh-colored, white, pink or tan
- Rough to the touch
Common warts usually occur on your fingers and hands. They may occur singly or in multiples. Warts may bleed if picked or cut. They often contain tiny black dots, which are small, clotted blood vessels.
Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Wart viruses pass from person to person. You can also get the wart virus indirectly by touching a towel or object used by someone who has the virus. Each person's immune system responds to the HPV virus differently, so not everyone who comes in contact with HPV develops warts.
If you have warts, you can spread the virus to other places on your own body. Warts usually spread through breaks in your skin, such as a hangnail or scrape. Biting your nails also can cause warts to spread on your fingertips and around your nails.
Because warts shed HPV, new warts can appear as quickly as old ones go away. They can also spread to other people.
Many common warts don't require treatment. They usually disappear within two years, though new ones may develop nearby. You may want to treat them for cosmetic purposes, if they're causing discomfort or to prevent their spread. Home treatment is often effective in curing common warts.
If you have stubborn warts and home treatment isn't helping, your doctor may suggest one of the following approaches, based on the location of your wart, the degree of your symptoms and your preferences.
- Freezing: Your doctor may use liquid nitrogen to destroy your wart by freezing it. This treatment is usually only mildly painful and is often effective, although you may need repeated treatments. Freezing works by causing a blister to form under and around your wart. Then, the dead tissue sloughs off within a week or so.
- Minor surgery: This involves cutting away the wart tissue or burning it with electricity. However, the injection of anesthetic given before this surgery can be painful, and the surgery may leave a scar.
- Over-the-counter medications: Wart medications and patches are available at pharmacies. For best results, soak your wart in warm water for 10 to 20 minutes before applying a solution or patch, and file away any dead skin with a nail file or pumice stone between treatments.
- Duct tape: The process involves covering warts with duct tape for six days, then soaking the warts in warm water and rubbing them with an emery board or pumice stone. The process was repeated for as long as two months.
Avoiding cross-contamination can reduce the risk that you or your child will get or spread warts. Examples include:
- Don't bite your fingernails.
- Don't brush, clip, comb or shave areas that have warts.
- Keep tools separate.
- Don't pick at warts.
- Keep your hands dry.
Having warts can be very embarrassing and unappealing; rather get rid of them as soon as possible before they become a cosmetic problem.