Warts symptoms & causes

Warts usually occur on your fingers, feet or hands. They can be small, fleshy, grainy bumps. Flesh-coloured, white, pink or tan, they may feel rough when touched. And are sprinkled with black pinpoints, which are small clotted blood vessels


Verruca or wart?

Warts are small lumps that develop on the skin. Verrucas are a type of wart that affect the bottom of the feet and hands. Warts and verrucas come in all shapes and sizes. They can affect any part of the body, but are more common on the hands and feet.


What do verrucas look like?

Verrucas develop on the soles of the feet. They are white. And often have a black dot in the centre. Verrucas tend to be flat. Verrucas can be painful if they're on a weight-bearing part of the foot.


What do warts look like?

Warts tend to be round or oval-shaped but some are long and thin. They are usually firm and raised. They have a rough, irregular surface similar to a cauliflower and some are smooth. Warts vary in size, from less than 1mm to more than 1cm across. They can appear on their own or in a group. The growths can be painful or change in appearance or colour.


  • Itchy warts

Warts are a very common skin condition caused by a virus that results in small growths on the skin. These are usually painless but they can be unsightly and can possibly become itchy or bothersome depending on the location of the warts. 

Why do warts itch? Friction on the wart is a possibility. If you have plantar warts, the skin and the wart are in constant contact with your shoes or socks.  Or the wart is in contact with the floor when you’re walking barefoot. This contact will cause the area to itch. Another reason is the virus that caused the wart: HPV. Some of the HPV viruses have itching as one of their symptoms.

Common warts appear on the hands as well as other parts of the body. If this type of warts appears on a part of the body, which is continually rubbed against, it may cause itching.

Flat warts may also cause itching. A plantar wart appear on the soles of the feet and is being in contact with socks, shoes or the hard surfaces of floors. This may cause itching to occur. Subungual or periungual warts - appear under and around the toenails or fingernails – which may cause itching.

Although the above types of warts may cause some itching, there are two specific kinds of warts that cause an uncomfortable need to scratch. This includes: genital warts and molluscum contagiosum warts. Genital warts, which grow in the pubic area or in/on the vagina or around the anal or genital area, are considered very itchy. This is caused by HPV infection, and is one of the most widespread sexually transmitted diseases.

Molluscum contagiosum warts have itching as its primary symptom. Molluscum contagiosum warts are sometimes called water warts. They appear on the skin of the chest, upper thighs, and abdomen and occasionally on the mucous membranes. Unlike common warts, this type has a flesh-coloured appearance with a dimple in the center and usually occurs in clusters. Infections happen often in swimming pools, day care centers, schools and at work. This type of warts is closely related to and caused by a poxvirus. 


  • Black wart

Seborrhoeic warts or black warts are are always begign, thus non-cancerous warty growths that occur on the skin. They usually do not need any treatment. Seborrhoeic warts used to be called senile warts. They usually look like greasy or crusty spots that seem to be stuck on to the skin. The colour varies but usually they are dark brown or black.

Senile warts are usually round although they can also be oval in shape. Some seborrhoeic warts have an irregular shape. Their size can vary from around one centimeter to several centimeters in diameter. Seborrhoeic warts tend first to appear around the age of 40. Some families have a predisposition to this type of warts. The actual cause of seborrhoeic warts is unknown. It is more common to develop several seborrhoeic warts as you become older. Also, as time goes by, each wart tends to grow slightly and become darker. They can occur anywhere on your body, other than on your palms or soles. Senile warts do not spread and they are not cancerous. The main problem is that they can sometimes look unsightly, particularly if they develop on your face. 


  • Brown wart

Brown warts are also seborrhoeic keratoses like black. Like black warts this is a basal cell papilloma. Seborrhoeic keratoses are very common harmless, often pigmented, growths on the skin. In the UK more than half the men and more than third of women would have at least one black or brown wart. By the age of 40 30% of the population is affected. By the age of 70 it increases to 75%. They are also found in younger people. Seborrhoeic keratoses are harmless, but are often considered to be a nuisance. They can itch, become inflamed, and catch on clothing. Many people dislike the look of them, particularly when they occur on the face. 

Seborrhoeic keratoses have a rough surface, and range in colour from golden brown to mid brown to almost black. They can affect anyone, but on dark- skinned people they can also appear as multiple small dark brown or black bumps, especially on the face and the neck; in such a case this is called Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra. Seborrhoeic keratoses can cause worry by becoming inflamed or bleeding. If there is any doubt, a skin biopsy can be done to confirm the diagnosis. Individual seborrhoeic keratoses can be removed successfully. However, new seborrhoeic keratoses will continue to appear. Removal may not be funded by the local NHS service. 

It is recommended that you see a GP if your warts are painful, rapidly multiplying, interfering with any of your daily activities, are unresponsive to home treatments, or if any of them change in appearance or colour.


How do you get warts?

Different HPV (human papilloma virus) strains cause warts. Warts have a rough texture because the virus forms keratin, which is a hard protein on the top layer of the skin, and it grows fast. The wart-causing virus can be passed on by close skin-to-skin contact, as well as through contact with towels or shoes, used by people that have warts. Once a towel is wash, it no longer has the ability to inoculate warts. The wart-causing virus can be spread to other parts of the body when the wart gets damaged by for example shaving, scratching, or biting the wart. Biting fingernails can cause warts to spread on the fingertips and around nails.

Getting warts is related to the immune systems.  Some of us may develop warts when we come into contact with HPV, while others don't. The risk of catching warts from another person is fairly small, but it exists. Genital warts are much more contagious. 

An individual who has damaged or wet skin, or comes into contact with rough surfaces is more likely to catch the infection.


How do you get verrucas?

The HPV-virus strains cause warts. The wart-causing virus can be passed on by close skin-to-skin contact, as well as through contact with towels, socks or shoes. A person whose skin is damaged, wet, or comes into contact with rough surfaces is more likely to catch the infection. For example, a person with scratches or cuts on the soles of their feet is more likely to catch verrucas in and around public swimming pools.


Verrucas and swimming

A person whose skin is damaged, wet, or comes into contact with rough surfaces is more likely to catch the infection. For example, a person with scratches or cuts on the soles of their feet is more likely to catch verrucas in and around public swimming pools. Wear flip-flops in communal showers. And cover your wart or verruca with a waterproof plaster when you go swimming to prevent contaminating others.