Common Wart

A common wart is a thick, rough, skin growth caused by human papillomavirus virus (HPV). HPV spreads by skin-to-skin contact or contact with contaminated surfaces. Common warts are benign (not cancer).

What increases my risk for a common wart?

Common warts occur more often in children and young adults. You may get warts if you touch someone else's wart or objects that someone with a wart has touched. The following may increase your risk for a common wart:

  • Use of community showers, swimming pools, or bathrooms
  • Handling raw meat or fish
  • Use of medicines that weaken your immune system
  • Conditions that weaken your immune system, such as lymphoma, HIV, or an organ transplant
  • Being pregnant

What are the signs and symptoms of a common wart?

Common warts may form anywhere on your body, but are most common on hands, fingers, knees, feet, and elbows. You may have any of the following:

  • A raised, round growth
  • Black dots in the center of your wart, or bleeding if the wart is scratched or scraped
  • Soreness around your wart

How is a common wart treated?

Your healthcare provider may treat your wart based on the size, location, and number of warts you have. Some warts go away on their own without treatment. Some warts return after treatment. You may need any of the following:

  • Home treatments may help remove the wart:
    • Salicylic acid helps dry and remove the wart. Before you apply salicylic acid, soak the wart in warm water for up to 20 minutes. Keep your wart damp. Apply a small amount of salicylic acid directly to your wart. Do not apply salicylic acid to healthy skin. Cover the wart as directed. It is best to do this at bedtime. When you wake, use a pumice stone (a rough stone) or nail file to gently remove dead skin. Repeat as directed.
    • Duct tape helps dry and remove the wart. You may be directed to leave the duct tape on for 6 days. On day 7, take the tape off and soak the wart in warm water for 5 minutes. Gently scrape the wart with a pumice stone or nail file. Then apply a new piece of duct tape and follow the same steps until the wart is gone.
  • Cantharidin burns the wart and causes it to blister. Your healthcare provider will apply this liquid medicine to your wart. He or she may remove the blister or dead skin at a later time.
  • Liquid nitrogen freezes the wart and helps it fall off. This treatment may be repeated 2 to 4 times.
  • Injections may help kill the virus that is causing the wart.
  • Other treatments may be needed to remove your wart. These treatments may include phototherapy, laser therapy, or surgery to remove the wart.

When should I call my doctor?

  • Your wart returns or does not go away after treatment.
  • Your wart grows larger, or begins to spread or cluster.
  • You have a wart on your face, genitals, or rectum.
  • Your wart bleeds, becomes painful, or drains pus.
  • You have questions about your condition or care.