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What Causes Warts?

Updated on August 31, 2009

If you've ever seen someone with a wart, you may wonder how they came to have it. The answer is simple: it was caused by some variant of the HPV virus. Genital warts are a common venereal disease and if you'd like to read more about it, please see the article I've written on it, but his particular article is going to be geared more toward warts you'd find on ordinary body parts, such as the hands, feet and face. Common warts more frequently referred to as flat warts, plantar warts and the like. Warts can make a person very self conscious and perhaps even feel as though they did something wrong or dirty in order to acquire them -- that's absolutely not the case. Read on to learn more about warts, what they really are and how you get them.

What's HPV?

The Human Papillomavirus is a family of more than 100 different strains. While they are said to be contagious, ordinary old common warts tend not to be passed on very easily. (Which is quite different from genital warts, which are very, very contagious and are very often passed on to partners.) Common warts can turn up in the mouth, on the face, on the feet, on the torso, etc. If you've got skin or a mucous membrane there, a wart can pop up if you pick up a strain of HPV that causes it.

What exactly is the wart itself?

The growth you see may look like an ordinary mole or birthmark, but it's actually an infection of the skin itself and that growth is your body's reaction to it -- it's caused by the skin cells suddenly doubling and trebling at a very fast rate.

Which strain of HPV causes which wart?

While some strains of HPV definitely cause genital warts, some of those strains can also cause regular warts on your hands or feet, etc. And vice versa. Science isn't particularly clear on how it works or why.

How do you get warts?

Skin to skin contact is the most obvious way. Holding hands, shaking hands, touching someone on their hand, giving someone a pedicure, painting someone's nails, kissing someone who has one very close to their mouth, etc. It's said that the HPV virus enters your body through a break in the skin, so if you've got a scratch and come in contact with the virus on someone else's body, you might end up with a wart. You can also get them by sharing clothes and towels.

How common are warts?

They are actually not that common and not everyone gets them -- but this is unclear as to why that happens to be. You naturally come in contact with the HPV virus that causes common warts every day, but only some people develop them.

Can you get rid of warts?

Yes, there are many wart treatments available and many of them are safe to try. Most of the time the warts stay gone, but they can recur. They also tend to go away on their own, although sometimes it can take years. Generally speaking, however, yes you can get rid of warts.

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