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BOD-ities: Where do warts come from?

Riddle Hospital August 28, 2017 BOD-ities By Gopal Patel, MD

The answer to this question is two-fold: We must explore what causes warts to develop, and what causes them to spread.

First, let’s look at what causes them. All warts develop as a result of an infection within the human papillomavirus (HPV) family, but an HPV diagnosis does not necessarily mean that warts will develop. 

Common warts are—as indicated by their name—the most common form of warts and usually appear on the hands and fingers. However, warts can also appear on the feet and mucous membranes that line the digestive, reproductive and respiratory tracts. 

Warts often begin as small, rough bumps on the skin that are flesh-colored, white, pink or tan. They may be dotted with what look like black pinpoints. These are blood vessels within the wart, and are also common and not cause for concern.

While HPV might technically be where common warts “come from” there are other methods through which they are spread. Although old wives’ tales might have you believe that picking up a frog or visiting your nearest pond is a surefire way to contract a case of warts, this is simply a myth. No amphibians will give you warts. In fact, skin-to-skin contact is the most common way to spread warts.

This can include spreading warts from one area of your body to another through skin-to-skin contact, or spreading it to your body by interacting with someone who has warts. Someone who has warts can spread them through direct skin-to-skin contact, but also through sharing items like towels, toiletry items, footwear and other equipment or personal items. 

Keep in mind that warts can be very easily spread. Any break in the skin—even something as seemingly small as a hangnail—can make you more susceptible to catching or spreading the warts virus. 

For this reason, it’s important to take preventative measures like washing your hands frequently and avoiding biting your nails. If you do have warts, do not bite them or pick at them, and use different grooming tools for your hands or feet that have warts than you do for those that do not.

Fortunately, there are many ways to treat warts at home or with the help of your doctor, including salicylic acid, wart freezing, laser treatments and more. Talk to your doctor or a dermatologist to learn more about these options.

And remember that, while warts are common, there are times when a wart may require a second opinion. If you develop a wart on your face or genitalia, develop many warts in any area of your body, are diabetic and develop warts, or develop warts that itch, burn, bleed or are otherwise painful, contact your doctor.

Main Line Health dermatologists are board-certified medical doctors who treat not only the appearance of your hair, skin and nails, but the health of them. Should you experience a more serious skin disorder, Main Line Health dermatologists have the advanced training to provide you the latest comprehensive care, based on current clinical research.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.