Warts are small growths on the skin caused by a viral infection and although they can appear on any part of the body, warts on hands and fingers are the most common type. Wart symptoms can vary but they usually appear as small, grainy skin growths that often feel rough to the touch, which can range in colour from pink and white to tan. Some people will only get one wart, while others get many more, and it’s not uncommon to experience 10-20 warts throughout your life. 


Type of Warts

The viruses that cause warts are usually completely harmless. Some of the types of warts are: 

  • Common warts (Verruca vulgaris) are the most common wart type. They can appear singly or in groups anywhere on your body, but are most commonly seen on hands and feet. Common warts look like raised growths on the skin and have a hard, uneven surface area. 

  • Plantar warts (Verruca plana, also known as verrucas) are warts on the soles of the feet that have been pushed into the skin surface by the weight of the body. They often grow in clusters. 

  • Plane warts (Verruca pedis) are smaller warts that lie flatter on the skin. They usually appear on the hands or face. 

  • Subungual and periungual warts are rough, irregular warts that form underneath the toenails and fingernails. They start out small but can grow to the size of a pea and cause the nail to become loose and deformed 


Not everybody who comes into contact with wart viruses becomes infected. The reasons for this are not completely understood but your genetic makeup and immune system are likely involved. A family history of warts could make you more susceptible to the virus, and people who have a weakened immune system are also at higher risk.  

Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV causes hard protein (keratin) to grow in the upper layer of your skin and form small, irregular bumps that are rough to the touch. There are over 100 types of HPV, and different strains of the virus are responsible for different types of warts.  

The HPV virus enters your skin through dry and cracked skin, or a cut or scratch. Once you have become infected, the warts can spread from one place on your body to another, and your fingertips and the area around the nail may become infected from nail biting. Warts can also spread from one carrier to the next when broken skin comes into direct contact with a wart, for example through a handshake. Direct skin-to-skin contact is the most common way to become infected, but the virus can spread through indirect contact as well, via objects that carry infected skin cells that have peeled off from the wart. Sharing towels with people who have warts or walking barefoot in places like locker rooms and public showers can cause warts and verrucas to spread. They can also spread between different family members in your own home.  

Most warts are harmless and disappear within two years, but some may remain longer than that. To avoid spreading your infection, you should treat new warts as soon as they appear.