Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus is spread through skin-to-skin contact or by touching surfaces contaminated with HPV.
Warts are common – most people have a wart at some point in their lives. They can affect you at any age, although they’re more likely to appear when you’re a teenager or young adult.
Warts can appear almost anywhere on your skin. However, warts on hands and warts on feet (verrucas) are most likely.
Warts often go away naturally but, if required, can usually be treated with over-the-counter or prescribed medications. Warts can also be removed by freezing (cryotherapy) or, occasionally, with minor surgery.
Warts are usually painless but can sometimes be itchy or bleed.
There are several different types of warts.
Although warts tend to disappear, this can take time – sometimes several years.
Talk to a pharmacist, who’ll provide advice on how to get rid of warts. They’ll also be able to explain what causes warts and ways to prevent warts spreading.
If you have a wart that’s causing you pain, embarrassment or discomfort, and over-the-counter medications aren’t helping, see your GP.
You should also see your GP if you have a wart that:
Your GP will examine the wart and surrounding skin. They’ll explain how to remove warts and may prescribe wart-removing medication or refer you for cryotherapy. Very occasionally, your GP will refer you to a dermatologist, a consultant specialising in skin conditions.
To reduce your risk of developing warts or warts spreading to other parts of your body, you should:
Your GP may prescribe medication containing salicylic acid to burn the wart away or refer you for cryotherapy. Cryotherapy freezes warts away using liquid nitrogen. In some cases, your GP may suggest combining treatment with salicylic acid medication and cryotherapy.
If medication and/or cryotherapy fails to remove your wart, your GP or consultant may suggest minor surgery. This involves having your wart lasered off, scraped away (curettage) or treated with light therapy (photodynamic therapy).