Condition Basics

What are warts?

Warts are skin growths caused by a virus. Warts can grow anywhere on the body. There are different kinds. Plantar warts grow on the soles of the feet. Most warts go away on their own within months or years.

How do they spread?

Warts are spread by direct contact with a human papillomavirus (HPV). You can infect yourself again by touching the wart and then touching another part of your body. You can infect another person by sharing towels, razors, or other items. After contact with HPV, it can take months before you notice a wart.

What are the symptoms?

A wart may be a bump with a rough surface, or it may be flat and smooth. Plantar warts can look like a callus. Warts are usually painless. But a wart that grows in a spot where you put pressure, such as on a finger or the bottom of the foot, can be painful.

How are they diagnosed?

A doctor usually can tell if a skin growth is a wart by looking at it. Your doctor may take a sample of the wart if it isn't clear that the growth is a wart or if the growth is darker than the skin around it, is irregular, bleeds, or is large and fast-growing.

How are warts treated?

Most warts don't need treatment. They generally go away on their own. But if you have warts that are painful or are spreading, you can treat them with salicylic acid or duct tape. Or your doctor can treat them with medicine, by freezing them, or by removing them.