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Why Do I Have Warts? A Quick Primer

Updated on December 5, 2013

Despite our Halloween legends, warts exist in places other than the noses of creepy, green witches. In reality, they are very common viruses that will come and go on their own schedule. Generally, there are no related health concerns, though some people find them visually disagreeable and they can cause some discomfort or minor pain.

You don't have to look like this to end up with a few warts...
You don't have to look like this to end up with a few warts... | Source

Where do they come from?

Warts develop as a result of an infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV). (Though HPV can be scary because of its association with certain cancers, most warts and/or sores outside of the mouth and genitals are the result of a different type of the virus not responsible for common warts.)

Common warts are growths that occur in the epidermis. They can be as small as a pinhead or as large as a dime, though clusters of warts can occupy lots of space. Occasionally, the entire sole of a foot or the back of a hand may be covered, and in extreme cases, entire arms or feet!

Do your warts cause embarrassment?

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Are there different kinds?

Yes! Frequently, the type of wart will be identified by its location on the body. Plantar warts are typically found on the sole of the foot. Plane warts are positioned across flat portions of the body such as the thighs, face, or back, and usually grow in clusters. Periungal warts grow under or pressed upon finger and toe nails. For a more extensive look at varied types of warts, click here.

When they grow on different parts of the body, warts are likely to follow typical shape and size patterns, resulting in the above classifications.
When they grow on different parts of the body, warts are likely to follow typical shape and size patterns, resulting in the above classifications. | Source

A few random facts...

  • Because warts are more inclined to infect areas with cuts or scrapes, children are somewhat more likely to be afflicted.
  • Biting fingernails and hangnails increases the chances of getting warts, for the same reason as above.
  • A weak or non-functioning immune system may allow for the massive spreading of warts, such as with the seriously afflicted, [“Tree Man”].
  • Warts are caused by a virus, which means there is no cure. Despite the efforts of your dermatologist, nothing can be done to guarantee that warts won’t return to a new location, or even the exact same spot.

Are they contagious?

Conventional medical wisdom continues to state that warts are contagious, however my personal experience has been to the contrary. I’ve read that touching a person’s wart or even touching something that individual has touched (such as a bath towel) can pass the infection from person to person.

I have dealt personally with warts for almost ten years. I’ve had some burned off at the dermatologist, had some frozen with over-the-counter products, and waited some out. Over the course of the last six years or so, however, I’ve always had at least one on the inside palm of one or both of my hands. Despite holding my girlfriend’s hands, touching her face, arms, neck, and back, she hasn’t developed even a single wart. Nor have I seen any impact on those individuals with whom I shake hands or otherwise touch.

What I have seen, though, is that warts do seemingly spread to new locations on an already affected person. They may grow in clusters (I’ve never had any serious clustering), but I seemingly have a new one pop up somewhere on my hands every 18-24 months or so.

Dede Kosawa, the "Treeman"

With an almost absent immune system, Kosawa's warts grew unimpeded for 20 years. An average immune system would've fought off the virus long ago.
With an almost absent immune system, Kosawa's warts grew unimpeded for 20 years. An average immune system would've fought off the virus long ago. | Source

More of an auditory learner?

How do I get rid of them?

Wart removal is one of the most storied aspects of all medicine. It seems as if everyone has their own remedy. Smothering them with airtight tape, painfully scratching them off, and having them frozen or burned off (by a doctor or with over-the-counter medications) are among some of the most common ways to cure them.

Here are a few of the more creative methods rumored to eliminate warts:

• Spit on them in the mornings before brushing your teeth so that your mouth’s acids can work to destroy the growth (this individual said he also would lick them throughout the day!).

• Have a friend tie a string with one knot for each of your warts. Rub each knot on a unique wart and return the string to the friend who tied it. It should then be buried in secret and the warts ought to just fall off!

• Daily application of apple cider vinegar to a wart followed by the attachment of a tight bandage. The vinegar destroys and smothers the wart.

• Apply a bandage with a small slice of garlic pressed tightly to the top of the wart. Over the course of a week or two, it will shrivel up and die.

Though there are plenty of creative solutions for ridding yourself of these potentially unsightly little growths, the proven answer continues to be the most disliked: patience. In almost all cases, time will solve the problem. While it may take months or even years, eventually warts will simply run their course and disappear. One day you’ll have it, the next you won’t!

So Basically....

Warts are rarely anything other than a cosmetic concern. Though benign (meaning non-cancerous), they can be embarrassing, damage intimate relationships, and cause discomfort. Luckily, the good news is that in most cases they will disappear on their own over time. If your warts aren't doing any harm, there is probably no need to do anything about them at all.

For more serious cases, there are a wide variety of remedies, both medical and home-based. I've had mine burned off by a doctor, frozen off at home, and picked out by myself (I really don't recommend this). If you're looking to get rid off yours, I had success with Compound W Freeze Off and suggest it as a safe option.


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    • djt5036 profile imageAUTHOR

      Daniel J. Taylor 

      4 years ago from Eddystone, PA

      Thanks for reading!

      I have had three on my hands for almost three years, but in the 2 weeks since I wrote this hub, the one on my left hand has disappeared and the skin is soft and normal there again! Yipee!!

    • peachpurple profile image


      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i have warts on my toes most of the times. I think due to wearing slippers. I don't wear sandals or shoes. Thanks for the hub. Got the points now.


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