The virus that causes warts is called the human papillomavirus, or HPV. Some people get warts more easily than other people. There are over 100 types of HPV viruses.
Warts can spread to other parts of your body. They may be passed to another person when that person touches the warts. Warts on the genital area can be spread to another person during sex. You can also get warts from objects that were used by someone who has warts, such as a razor. Some people get warts more easily than other people.
It may take up to 3 months from the time you are infected with the virus until a wart appears on your skin.
Warts are skin-colored and feel rough when you touch them. They often cause a painless bump on the skin.
There are different kinds of warts.
Your healthcare provider will examine your skin and the wart. Most warts are diagnosed by how they look. Some tests, such as a Pap test in women, can help detect genital infection by HPV.
Your healthcare provider may use a number of treatments to remove warts. Warts can be frozen, burned, surgically removed, treated with chemicals or drugs, or removed with a laser. Some warts can be hard to get rid of completely. More than 1 treatment may be needed.
You can buy nonprescription products to treat most warts that are not genital warts. These products contain mild acids that you put on the wart twice a day for several weeks. Gradually, the dead skin of the wart will peel off. Use caution because these acids can irritate normal skin. Do not use these products if you are pregnant unless your provider says it is OK.
Another treatment for warts on the skin (nongenital warts) uses duct tape: Cover the wart with duct tape. Once a week, remove the tape and soak the wart in water. Gently rub the wart with an emery board, sandpaper, or pumice stone. Put duct tape back on the wart about 12 hours later. Repeat this process until the wart is gone. It may take up to 2 months.
Genital warts can be sexually transmitted and they can be a more serious problem than warts on the skin. They need to be checked by your healthcare provider. Some genital warts inside the vagina (on the cervix, which is the opening of the womb) can become cancerous. But these cancers can be prevented with the HPV vaccine. If you think you have genital warts, see your healthcare provider. If you do have genital warts, your sexual partner may also need to be seen. Avoid sexual contact until you and your partner have been treated.
If nongenital warts do not interfere with walking or running or do not cause social problems or embarrassment, it may be best to leave them alone. In most cases your immune system will slowly get rid of the infection, but it may take a while.
Warts that are not genital are usually not serious and may disappear on their own in 2 to 3 years. Some warts last a lifetime.
Genital warts can be more serious. Some can be related to the development of cervical cancer. Prompt treatment can prevent cervical cancer. Genital warts need to be treated by your healthcare provider.
Treatment of warts can remove the warts, but it may not get rid of the virus. Because of this, warts may come back.
Rarely, men can get cancers on the penis from HPV.
To help prevent spreading warts:
Girls, boys, young women and young men can get shots of a vaccine to prevent infection with some of the HPV strains that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. Ask your healthcare provider if the vaccine is recommended for you.
For more information about warts, call the American Academy of Dermatology at 888-462-3376 or visit their Web site at http://www.aad.org.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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