About warts and verrucas

What are warts?

A wart is a small growth on a person's hands or feet. It looks like a solid blister or a small cauliflower growth. They have a rough texture.  Warts are often skin-coloured and feel rough, but they also can be dark, brown or gray-black, flat, warty and smooth. Warts can have a hard ‘warty’ or ‘verrucous’ surface. You can often see a tiny black dot in the middle of each scaly spot, due to a clotted capillary blood vessel. There are various types of viral warts. Common warts arise most often on the back of fingers or toes, and on the knees. 

Viruses cause warts. Warts are the most common type of skin infection. They are infections of the skin with the human papilloma virus. Warts are benign, not cancerous, skin growths that develop on the skin. Verrucas, also called plantar warts, are a type of wart that affects the bottom of the feet. 

Most people will have warts at some point in their life. They're generally harmless and tend to go away on their own eventually, but this can take months or even years. In children, even without treatment, 50% of warts disappear within 6 months and two-thirds of the warts are gone in 2 years. They are more persistent in adults but they clear up eventually.


What is a verruca?

Verrucas are a type of wart that affect the bottom of the feet. The term ‘plantar warts’ is used for those that occur under the feet, as the bottom of your foot is its ‘plantar’ surface. They are either known as verrucas or plantar warts. Warts are the most common type of skin infection. They are infections of the skin with the human papilloma virus.


Why do you get warts?

Some people are more likely to get warts than others. Warts are contagious and spread easily by direct contact. Viruses cause warts and verrucas. The virus that causes warts is called human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus causes the top layer of skin to grow rapidly, forming a wart. More than 100 HPV subtypes are known. You are more likely to get infected by one of these viruses when your skin is damaged or cut in some way.

Warts can spread via direct contact with the wart or something that touched the wart. This is called inoculation. Plane, or flat, warts can be very numerous and may be inoculated by shaving or scratching. You can infect yourself again by touching the wart and then touching another part of your body. You can infect another person by sharing used towels, razors, or other personal items. After you've had contact with HPV, it can take many months of slow growth beneath the skin before you notice a wart. It is unlikely that you will get a wart every time you come in contact with HPV.