How Warts Are Spread

The culprit of a wart will be one of more than 70 types of human papillomaviruses (HPV). They spread when the virus touches a part of the skin where the outer protective layer is broken, either by minor trauma or moisture. This happens most commonly on the fingers, elbows, knees, and bottoms of the feet. Warts on the bottom of your feet are called plantar warts – named for the foot's plantar surface (sole). 

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When to Seek Treatment

Warts are usually tender when they are growing most rapidly. A little wart can be a big problem. Often, the pain will disappear within a few days, even if nothing is done. While most warts disappear on their own, some may require medical attention. Here are some instances when you should see a doctor:

  • If the wart is causing pain or discomfort
  • If the wart is bleeding or oozing pus
  • If the wart spreads to other parts of the body
  • If you have a weakened immune system
  • If the wart is on your face or genitals
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Types of Warts

Some people get warts easier than others. Some types of warts are more common in children than adults, partly because of their less mature immune systems and partly because they spend more time in wet-floored locker rooms and active, close play. There are several types of warts, each with distinct characteristics and treatment options.

Common Warts

These warts are typically found on the hands and fingers and have a rough, raised surface with black dots in the center. Common warts are contagious and can spread through direct contact or touching objects touched by someone with a wart.

Plantar Warts

Plantar warts appear on the soles of your feet and may be painful when walking or standing. Plantar warts have a flat surface with a rough texture and may have black dots in the center. They can be spread through direct contact with an infected surface, such as a public shower or pool.

Flat Warts

These warts are small and smooth, with a flat surface that is slightly raised. Flat warts can show up anywhere on your body but appear most commonly on the face and legs. Flat warts are highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact or sharing personal items such as towels or razors.

Genital Warts

Genital warts appear on the genitals or anus and are spread through sexual contact with an infected partner. Genital warts can be flat or raised and may be pink, red, or gray. They can also be itchy or painful.

Filiform Warts

These long, narrow warts typically appear on the face, neck, or eyelids. They have a thread-like appearance and can be easily irritated by clothing or jewelry. Filiform warts are contagious and can be spread through direct contact.

Molluscum "Water Warts"

Molluscum contagiosum, or "water warts," is a viral skin infection that causes small, round, firm, painless bumps on the skin ranging in size from a pinhead to a pencil eraser. The bumps may have a dimple in the center and are usually white, pink, or the same color as the skin. They can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on the abdomen, legs, arms, neck, genital area, and face. 

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Can Warts Go Away on Their Own?

Eventually, most warts go away on their own, expelled by the body’s immune system. About 25% are gone within three to six months, and 65% disappear within two years. Sometimes filing a wart with an emery board or wearing a doughnut bandage can alleviate discomfort. Warts will not leave scars, though some of the more aggressive wart therapies might. 

Wart Treatment: What to Expect

During a wart treatment, one of our medical providers will first examine the wart to determine the best course of treatment. The type of treatment used will depend on the size and location of the wart, as well as your overall health and medical history. There are several treatment options available for warts, including the following.


Cryotherapy involves freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen to destroy the wart tissue. After cryotherapy, the treated area may become red, swollen, and blistered. The blister will eventually dry up and peel off, revealing healthy skin underneath. You must avoid picking at the blister or exposing it to friction and keep the area clean and dry.

Salicylic Acid

This treatment involves applying a topical medication made with salicylic acid to dissolve the wart tissue. Afterward, your doctor will cover the treated area with a bandage or tape. You should change the dressing daily and avoid getting the area wet. The treatment may take several weeks of continued use until the wart is completely gone.


Applying the cantharidin chemical to the wart creates a blister, eventually leading to the wart falling off. After using cantharidin, you may experience pain or blistering at the wart site. The blister will ultimately dry up and peel off, revealing healthy skin. You must avoid picking at the blister or exposing it to friction and keep the area clean and dry.

Surgical Removal

In some cases, your dermatologist may need to remove the wart surgically. After surgical removal, you may experience discomfort and swelling in the treatment area. Avoid exposing the area to sunlight and keep it clean and dry. You may receive a topical antibiotic cream to prevent infection and take pain medication as your doctor prescribes.

Why Choose Skin Care Doctors?

Dermatologists use many options to treat warts, but freezing is the most common. Gentle freezing repeated every week or two – usually at least four times – is more effective than a single aggressive attempt to freeze. This approach is less painful and much less likely to scar. Our medical providers at Skin Care Doctors are trained in the latest advancements in wart treatment and can help you regain smooth, healthy, wart-free skin. Contact our office if you have a wart that concerns you.

Better skin health starts here. Schedule your appointment today.

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