Warts frequently appear on the hands and feet, varying in appearance from flat and smooth to dome-shaped and cauliflower-like. The skin surrounding a wart may be lighter or darker in color. Caused by different forms of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), warts occur in people of all ages and are contagious upon contact. Warts are benign (noncancerous) and generally painless. They may disappear without any treatment, yet most warts take time to eliminate.
The location of a wart often characterizes its type.
Common Warts: This type of wart can appear anywhere on the body with the back of fingers, toes, and knees as common locations. Common warts generally form where there is a scratch, bug bite, or another break in the skin. These lesions are flesh-colored and dome-shaped and range from the size of a pinhead to 10mm in diameter. Common warts may appear as an individual wart or in a group.
Filiform Warts: Filiform, or facial, warts are flesh-colored stalks that appear on the face, usually around the eyelids, lips, and neck. Bleeding and itching may occur but filiform warts are easy to treat with over-the-counter medications.
Flat (Plane) Warts: Common in children and teens, flat warts appear on the face and forehead. These warts are flesh-colored or white and feature a raised, flat surface. Flat warts usually appear in multiples.
Genital Warts: These warts generally appear around the genital and pubic areas but may develop inside the vagina, anal canal, and/or in the mouth. Genital warts inside the mouth are called oral warts. New lesions are small in size with a soft texture but can become quite large and tend to grow in clusters. Genital warts are sexually transmitted and highly contagious. It's recommended to avoid sexual contact with anyone who has a visible genital wart. Genital warts should always be treated by a physician.
Plantar Warts: Plantar warts are found on the foot soles and may be painful since they are on a weight-bearing surface. Rough and cauliflower-like in appearance, these warts may have a small black speck in them and can spread rapidly. Plantar warts usually appear in multiples and may combine into a larger wart called a mosaic wart.
Subungual & Periungual Warts: Subungual and periungual warts are rough growths around and/or under the fingernails and/or toenails. These warts are nearly undetectable at first then grow to pin- and pea-sized with irregular bumps with uneven borders. People with these warts may struggle with healthy nail growth. Subungual and periungual warts are difficult to treat and require medical attention.
These dermatologist-supervised treatments are usually effective for warts, including:
- Cryotherapy: Liquid nitrogen or nitrous oxide freeze off the wart.
- Electrosurgery: An electric current travels through the wart to kill the tissue.
- Laser surgery: The wart is heated up until the tissue dies and the wart eventually falls off.
- Nonprescription freezing products: Dimethyl ether and other similar aerosol sprays freeze warts and cause them to die off.
- Salicylic acid preparations: Treatments dissolve the wart's keratin and the thick layer of skin cover. The preparations come in several forms, including drops and plasters, and take 4 weeks to 6 weeks to eliminate the wart.
If self-treatments don't work after a period of about 4 weeks to 12 weeks, contact Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center. We'll assess your warts and recommend the best treatment option. Always contact your dermatologist if a wart is:
- Causing pain;
- Changes in color or appearance; and/or
- Is any type of genital wart.