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warts; plantar; genital; plane; papilloma; virus; cervix; childbirth; laryngeal; skin; HPV; Human; Papilloma; virus;;


Lots of people get warts at some time or other. They don't look good, and they are contagious (say 'con-tay-jus') so they can be spread to other people by touching them. They are not very contagious - touching someone who has warts on their hands only rarely will spread the warts.

Some people get just one or two, while, for no known reason, other people get lots and they keep on coming back.

Having warts can make someone feel really bad because others may not want to be near them, touch them or do things with them. Warts are not dangerous, and there are treatments which can make them go away.

What are warts?

  • Warts are thickenings of the skin, usually round or oval shaped, with a clear edge and they are clearly different from the surrounding skin. Some people say they look like tiny, greyish cauliflowers.
  • Warts are caused by a virus infection of the skin (called Human Papilloma virus or HPV).
  • The virus enters the skin through scratches or other damage such as burns.
  • People cannot get warts from animals.

Common warts

  • Common warts are most often found on the hands, but also on knees and feet, and other parts of the body.

    warts on the feet
  • They are raised and usually separate from each other.
  • There can be one or two, or many at one time.
  • They are most common in children and teenagers.
  • Common warts are spread by skin-to-skin contact such as by holding hands.

Plane warts

  • Plane warts are flat topped and usually found on the face and back of hands.
  • They can come in lines where the virus has infected a scratch.

Plantar warts

  • Plantar warts come on the soles of the feet.
  • Infection can come from walking with wet, bare feet on places such as school or swimming pool change-room floors.
  • Because they are being trodden on all the time they cannot grow on the surface of the skin, so they grow inwards.
  • Plantar warts can be quite painful, unlike other warts.
  • Older children and teenagers are most likely to get plantar warts.

Genital warts

  • Genital warts are very common sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • The genital wart viruses are different from the viruses that cause warts on other parts of the body, such as hands and feet.
  • Genital warts are not painful.
  • For more information see the topic 'Genital warts' in the Young Adult Health section of this site.

What you can do

  • Don't pick or scratch the warts - you cannot scratch them off, and scratching might spread the virus to another part of your body.
  • Washing your hands will not get rid of the warts either.
  • Don't share other people's sports shoes or gloves.
  • Wear sandals or thongs around public pool areas and public showers.
  • See your doctor to find out the ways warts can be treated, or talk to a pharmacist (chemist) about treatments that you can buy 'over-the-counter'.

Treatment of warts

  • Common warts will go away by themselves without treatment, but this can take up to 2 years and new warts can come before the first ones have gone.
  • Various wart paints or plasters available from pharmacists can be used, but great care must be taken to avoid getting the treatment on to the healthy skin around the wart because it will burn normal skin. Putting petroleum jelly (eg. Vaseline**) on the skin around the wart, or using sticking plaster around the wart helps to protect the skin.
  • Your doctor may be able to burn off the warts with liquid nitrogen, or an electric needle (you would need a local anaesthetic for this).
  • Some warts need to be cut or scraped out by a doctor, especially plantar warts. Plantar warts can be hard to treat and take a long time for the treatment to be finished.
  • Some 'cures' are 'magic' and probably work because the wart was about to go away anyway.
  • Some people use plants or herbs such as dandelions, and these may have chemicals in them which help to destroy the wart.

Protection from warts

  • Don't touch warts, or if you do touch them, wash your hands soon.
  • Wear shoes or sandals outdoors, and thongs when walking on wet floors where a lot of people go, such as showers in gyms and change rooms for swimming pools.
  • People with warts do not need to stay away from school.
  • It is not known how long warts can be infectious, but it is probably as long as you can see the wart on the skin.

References and further reading

South Australian Department of Health 'Warts'     

MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine (USA) 'Warts'

**Any products referred to in our health topics are usually well-known brands readily available in Australia. The brand names are given as examples only, and do not necessarily represent the best products, nor the full range of effective products on the market.

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