Overview of warts

There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding warts, but simply put, they are growths caused by a virus. These noncancerous tissue abnormalities are extremely common, especially in children. 

They can occur in any part of the body, from plantar warts on the feet to palmer warts on the hands, and usually go away on their own within a year or two. Because warts are a viral condition, they can spread to other parts of the body and to other people through contact.


There are more than 100 different types of warts. Fortunately very few cause any pain. They can be identified by what part of the body they appear on, and what they look like. Several types of warts include:

  • Common warts are often a dull gray, brown, or yellow and arise near the nails and on the backs of your hands.
  • Palmer warts, known for their black dots (clotted blood vessels), also appear on the hands.
  • Plantar warts are similar to palmer warts in appearance, but form on the foot and can be the most painful.
  • Flat warts are smaller and more smooth, and grow in large groups, frequently on children’s faces.
  • Smooth, genital warts spread through sexual activity.
  • Filiform warts are small and more narrow than other types, usually arising on areas of sensitive skin like eyelids, face, and neck.


To prevent warts, keep your feet and body clean and dry. Limit the spread of warts to other parts of your body by resisting the urge to pick at them. When you are in public places, such as a gym or pool area, wear shoes and use clean towels. 

The best thing you can do is to wash your hands frequently, and avoid biting your nails.


Warts do not require treatment, but you may want to seek a doctor’s help if you are self conscious or if you are in any pain. When prescribing treatment, your doctor will consider the extend and type of your warts, your age, health, and medical history. 

Common courses of treatment include application of salicylic or lactic acid to soften the infected area, freezing the wart off with liquid nitrogen, or destroying the growth with an electrical current (electrodessication). 

Laser surgery and therapies to strengthen your immune system may also be recommended. You can also try over-the-counter wart remover remedies from your local pharmacy, which can be very effective when used correctly.

© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.


Plantar Warts

Find more information about plantar warts.