Frequently asked questions about warts

Here you find the answers of the most frequently asked questions about warts and warts treatment.

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  • Are warts contagious?

    Warts and verrucas – small, raised areas of skin that are usually rough to the touch – are very common, especially among children. But are warts contagious? The short answer is yes; warts can be transmitted both through direct and indirect contact. Finding the source of infection is usually difficult, since the viruses that cause warts are ubiquitous and it can take anywhere from two to six months before you start experiencing any wart symptoms

    There are two main ways to become infected with warts:

    • Direct contact. Warts can spread from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact, for example through a handshake. It is also common for warts to spread to different areas of your own body. This can happen if you pick on a wart and then touch a skin area that has lesions in it. 
    • Indirect contact. Any object that has been in contact with a wart can potentially transmit the infection. Sharing personal items such as towels and shoes, as well as walking barefoot on floors of public changing rooms and in swimming pool areas can cause warts to spread. 
  • Why are warts contagious?

    Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which triggers rapid cell growth in the top layer of the skin. There are over 100 types of HPV, and different strains of the virus are responsible for different types of warts. HPV is easily transmitted from one carrier to the next but not everybody that comes into contact with it develops warts. 

    Children with underdeveloped immune systems or those with a weakened immune system are more prone to developing warts than healthy adults. It is important to treat warts as soon as they appear to avoid spreading them to other people.

  • Mole or wart?

    Most adults have one or more moles, and around one in ten has a wart or verruca. Although they can look alike at first glance, sometimes appearing similar in shape and color, there are some important differences between moles and warts. Knowing if you have a mole or wart is important, since wart treatments should not be used to treat moles.  

  • How do I know if it is a mole or a wart?

    These are some common characteristics that can help you determine whether the growth on your skin is a mole or wart.

    Moles:

    • Are generated by pigment cells in your skin.
    • Cannot be transmitted between people.
    • Can become cancerous (melanoma).
    • Are either flat or elevated from the skin.
    • Sometimes have hair growing from them.
    • Are usually one color and do not change from month to month.
    • Will darken during hormonal changes, for example during adolescence and pregnancy.

    Warts:

    • Are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).
    • Are contagious.
    • Are usually harmless.
    • Normally grow outward from the skin (except verrucas, which occur on the feet and tend to grow inwards due to the pressure from your body weight).
    • Often have small black dots in the center - tiny blood vessels that provide the warts with nutrients.
    • Can grow anywhere on your body but are more likely to occur in certain areas, such as feet, hands and fingers.
    • Usually disappear on their own after a couple of years although it can take longer.
  • How to remove moles and warts

    Moles should only be removed if there is a risk of melanoma developing or if you find them embarrassing or difficult to cope with, for example when shaving. Contact your doctor for advice on mole removal.

    Warts should be removed to prevent them from spreading to others. The easiest way to remove warts is to use an effective over the counter treatment, such as EndWarts. Formic acid, which is the active ingredient in EndWarts, can be used by the whole family and has been proven to remove nine out of ten warts1  

    1 Bhat et al., International Journal of Dermatology 2001, 40, 415±419.

  • What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?

    Warts and verrucas – which affect one in ten adults and one in three children – are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). But what is human papillomavirus? HPV is a very common virus that infects the top layer of human skin or mucous membranes. Over 100 different strands of the virus have been identified and of these approximately 60 varieties cause warts on the hands and feet, as well as the face. These types of HPV are generally harmless. The rest are transmitted through sexual contact and can cause genital warts. Not all sexually transmitted HPV varieties are dangerous, but in some cases an infection can lead to cervical cancer. Since the virus can take many shapes and forms, it is important to get the facts about HPV.

     

     

     

  • Facts about HPV

    HPV usually enters the body through tiny lesions in your skin. The HPV varieties that cause warts and verrucas can be transmitted both through direct skin-to-skin contact with a person who is infected and through indirect contact via an inanimate object. Genital warts are passed on through sexual contact. Some types of HPV are transferred more easily than others, and children and people who have a weak immune system are more vulnerable to infection than healthy adults. 

    HPV is very difficult to detect as it has a long incubation period. After you become infected it could take anywhere from two to six months before you notice any wart symptoms. It is not possible to prevent warts completely, but you can minimise your risk of an HPV infection by washing your hands frequently, not walking barefoot in public areas, taking care of your skin and staying healthy to keep your immune system strong.

  • HPV and removal of warts

    In order to avoid spreading the HPV virus, it is important to treat warts as soon as they appear. The HPV varieties that cause warts can be treated successfully at home with an over the counter solution like EndWarts. 

  • What is molluscum contagiosum?

    Molluscum contagiosum (MC) and warts are both skin growths that commonly affect children, but they are caused by completely different viral strains. MC is caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus, while warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Both viruses are contagious and can easily spread, but whereas most people are resistant to the MC virus, this is not the case with HPV.

  • Molluscum contagiosum symptoms

    Similarly to warts and verrucas, the most common symptoms of MC are growths on the skin. But there are also important differences between the symptoms of the two skin conditions. An MC infection usually begins with the formation of a small, flesh-coloured bump the size of a pinhead. The growth usually does not cause any pain. Over time, the bump grows to the size of a small pearl and often turns a reddish colour. A fully grown MC growth can reach approximately 2-5 mm in diameter, and usually develops a small dimple in the center. This dimple is sometimes filled white, waxy gunk, similar to that found in a zit.

  • Children and MC

    Another similarity shared by MC and warts is the fact that both are most common in children and young adults. The growths are usually found on the back of the knee, around the armpit and on the neck, face and hands. Technically, MC can infect any part of the body, including the soles of the feet and palms of the hands, although this is rare. In adults, the virus tends to break out in the genital area, on the stomach or lower back, and on the inside of the thighs.

  • How does molluscum contagiosum spread?

    Just like warts, the MC virus mainly spreads through skin-to-skin contact with growths on infected children and adolescents, but it can also spread through inanimate objects such as:

    • Towels
    • Clothes
    • Toys
  • Treatment of children with MC

    Whereas children can easily be treated for warts with over the counter solutions at home, it is generally not recommended to treat them for MC. In healthy people the skin infection usually goes away by itself within a few years, and sometimes less than that. But if the infected person has a weakened immune system the virus may cause a large number of growths, and the infection could unfortunately become chronic. In general there is no reason to treat or remove growths caused by MC, since they are harmless and eventually will disappear. 

  • What are skin tags?

    Skin tags, or acrochordons as they are also called, are small, harmless growths on the skin. They tend to grow in armpits, on the neck, around the groin, on the eyelids and under breasts. Almost everybody is affected by skin tags at some point in their lives and a person can have anywhere from 1-100 skin tags. The cause for skin tags is not completely clear, but they appear to occur when skin rubs against other skin or clothes. Since they often occur in skin folds, obese people are more prone to having skin tags than the general population.

  • Skin tag or wart?

    The symptoms of skin tags are similar to wart symptoms but there are also some important differences. Skin tags can be smooth or irregular and range in size from a few millimeters to a few centimeters. While skin tags are usually soft and balloon shaped, warts are harder and usually have a rougher surface. The color of skin tags can range in from pale to dark. Another difference is that warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are contagious, whereas skin tags cannot be transmitted from one person to another. Since warts and skin tags look similar, many people get them confused. If you are unsure if you have a skin tag or wart you should consult a dermatologist or doctor. 

  • Removing skin tags

    Although skin tags are harmless, they can be unsightly. They can also become a nuisance if they are repeatedly irritated. If this is the case, contact a medical professional for more information on how to remove skin tags. Treatment options include freezing, tying it off with a thread, or cutting it off. In rare cases, skin tags will fall off spontaneously without treatment.

  • Why do we get warts?

    Warts are caused by viruses and can cause infections. There are several different types of wart viruses. Warts thrive in warm, damp environments. The virus are easily spread in places like swimming pools, gyms and through direct contact. Some people only get one wart, while others may have several. It is not unusual to have up to 10–20 warts. It is often easier to get rid of new warts than those that have been there for many years.

Causes of warts

Warts can spread between persons and from one place on your body to another, what are the causes?


What are warts?

Warts are small growths on the skin caused by a virus (HPV, human papilloma virus).

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