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Common warts

Common warts are small, grainy skin growths that occur most often on your fingers or hands. Rough to the touch, common warts also often feature a pattern of tiny black dots — sometimes called seeds — which are small, clotted blood vessels.

Common warts are caused by a virus and are transmitted by touch. Children and young adults are more likely to develop common warts, as are people who have weakened immune systems. Common warts usually disappear on their own, but many people choose to remove them because they find them bothersome or embarrassing.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Common warts are:

  • Small, fleshy, grainy bumps
  • Flesh-colored, white, pink or tan
  • Rough to the touch

Common warts usually occur on your fingers and hands. They may occur singly or in multiples. Warts may bleed if picked or cut. They often contain tiny black dots, which are small, clotted blood vessels.

When to see a doctor

Most common warts don't require medical treatment, but some people choose to have their warts treated because they're bothersome, spreading or a cosmetic concern.

Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 100 types of HPV, and different types of the virus cause different types of warts. Most types of HPV cause relatively harmless conditions such as common warts, while others may cause serious disease such as cancer of the cervix.

Wart viruses pass from person to person. You can also get the wart virus indirectly by touching a towel or object used by someone who has the virus. Each person's immune system responds to the HPV virus differently, so not everyone who comes in contact with HPV develops warts.

If you have warts, you can spread the virus to other places on your own body. Warts usually spread through breaks in your skin, such as a hangnail or scrape. Biting your nails also can cause warts to spread on your fingertips and around your nails.

People at higher risk of developing common warts include:

  • Children and young adults
  • People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or people who've had organ transplants

Because warts shed HPV, new warts can appear as quickly as old ones go away. They can also spread to other people.

Avoiding cross-contamination can reduce the risk that you or your child will get or spread warts. Examples include:

  • Don't bite your fingernails. Warts occur more often in skin that has been broken. Nibbling the skin around your fingernails opens the door for the virus.
  • Groom with care. In order to avoid spreading the virus, don't brush, clip, comb or shave areas that have warts. If you touch a wart, wash your hands carefully afterwards.
  • Keep tools separate. The virus that causes common warts can contaminate nail files or pumice stones you may be using to reduce the size of your warts. So don't use these tools on areas of your body that don't have warts.
  • Don't pick at warts. Picking may spread the virus. Consider covering warts with an adhesive bandage to discourage picking.
  • Keep your hands dry. Warts are more difficult to control in a moist environment.
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