Why Do I Get Warts?


Symptoms of warts

Warts are small lumps on the skin that usually go away on their own after they appear.They are usually skin coloured, and a person can have more than one, and in different parts of the body. They tend to appear particularly on hands andfeet.Usually, they do not cause any symptoms, but sometimes they can be itchy or painful.1

Causes of warts

Warts are caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) strains, and they can be spread to other people from close skin contact or through contaminated surfaces. Also, there are many strains of this virus, and different strains are responsible for different types of warts2. In this review the focus is on common skin warts, and not genital warts.

Risk factors

Some people are at higher risk of developing  warts, and this includes:3

  • Children and young adults, because the developing immune system may not have still  immunity to the virus
  • People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer or people who've had organ transplants

Moreover, there are risk factors that can increase the chances of developing a wart, due to increased physical exposition or skin damage:4

  • People who work with raw meat, for example at a butcher’s shop or slaughterhouse
  • Children and teenagers who often use communal showers, for instance after sports or at the swimming pool
  • People with family members who have warts
  • Schoolchildren who have many classmates with warts
  • People with atopic diseases like eczema

Is it possible to prevent skin warts?

Since warts spread through skin contact or contaminated surfaces, there are some measures that you can take to prevent them or in case you already have them, these can help you prevent the spread of them. For example:

  • Washing your hands after touching a wart or verruca
  • Change your socks daily
  • Cover warts and verrucas with a plaster
  • Take care not to cut a wart when shaving
  • Not scratching your wart
  • Do not share towels, socks, or shoes 
  • Do not bite nails with warts on
  • Do not pick a wart
  • Avoid prolonged time wearing closed shoes if you have a wart on your feet

Treatment and home remedies

Common methods of treatment for warts include:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Cryotherapy
  • Chemical treatments

These can be found over the counter, or performed by medically trained specialists.

Warts can be treated using home remedies but, if there is skin damage, bleeding or pain, before trying these methods at home it is best to go to a general practitioner (GP). Sometimes by scratching the warts, bacteria can get through the skin barrier and cause infections.

Also, it is important to note that treatment for warts is not always completely effective, and a wart can sometimes return.2

There are other more recent treatmentsthat have been developed with the goal to treat warts, as well as natural remedies.5

These alternative remedies have not been fully tested, their efficacy or risks would have to be assessed before being used.

Furthermore, even with remedies that can be obtained over the counter, such as salicylic acid solutions, it is best to consult a medical practitioner, particularly if suffering from other conditions such as diabetes, where the skin is more prone to damage and increased pain.


How do people get common skin warts? 

By coming in contact with a strain of HPV, this can be through contact with skin infected with warts, or objects that have been in contact with warts, such as towels.

Why do some people get a lot of warts and others don’t? 

Each person's immune system responds to the HPV virus differently, so not everyone who comes in contact with HPV develops warts.3

How long do warts last? 

They can last from a few months to several years.2 The amount of time it takes for them to go away depends on the type of virus and wart and the treatment, as well as the person's general health, some can even take only a few weeks.4

What can I do to feel better?

If the warts are causing you pain, and physical discomfort or having embarrassing feelings that overwhelm you, you should see a doctor for an evaluation.

When to call a doctor?

  • Whenever there is an abnormal growth on your skin
  •  If a wart is removed but it keeps coming back
  •  If it is a large wart that causes pain or bleeding
  •  If there is any change in colour on the overall look of the wart
  •  If the wart is on you face or genital area


Warts are caused by a skin infection due to HPV strains. They are more common in children, or people with a weakened immune system. In adults, they are not very prevalent and tend to go on their own after a few months.

Most of the time they are harmless, with little to no symptoms, but depending on the area of the body, they can also be painful, uncomfortable, or embarrassing. In this case, there are methods available for their removal, although this is not always effective and some warts can come back.

If the warts are not going away, or they are causing you discomfort, bleeding, or  the change in their appearance, you could opt to visit a medical practitioner for further advice and treatment.


  1. Warts and verrucas [Internet]. NHS . NHS; 2020 [cited 2023Jan31]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/warts-and-verrucas/
  2. Warts [Internet]. Warts | NHS inform. 2023 [cited 2023Jan31]. Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/skin-hair-and-nails/warts-and-verrucas
  3. Common warts [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2022 [cited 2023Feb2]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-warts/symptoms-causes/syc-20371125
  4. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Warts: Overview. [Updated 2019 Nov 7]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279586/
  5. Shahid SK. Recent patents in anti-wart treatment. Pharmaceutical Patent Analyst. 2020Apr21;9(2):53–62. 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Aryana Zardkoohi

Master's degree, Tropical disease biology, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Aryana completed a degree in microbiology and clinical chemistry and an MSc in Molecular Biology of Parasites and Vectors. She has several years of experience working as clinical microbiologist at hospitals, and in public health research of tropical diseases.
She is currently undertaking a PhD studying the effects of plant carbohydrates on human gut health.

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