What Causes Warts?

If you’ve had a wart on your hands, feet or your child has had warts, you might wonder what causes warts in the first place. Actually, understanding the cause and how they spread can help you prevent warts and, if you do get a wart, can help you avoid spreading warts to someone else.

What Causes Warts?

Warts are caused by many different strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). About 60% of HPV strains cause the common and plantar warts we find on our hands and feet. The HPV strains that cause typical warts adults and kids find on their hands, fingers, toes and feet are different from the HPV strains that cause genital warts. Genital warts are a sexually transmitted disease caused by two other types of HPV strains.

Viruses are contagious. Because warts form from viruses, they can easily spread to other parts of your body, to people you’re in close contact with, or to people who simply share the same locker room or shower floor.

The virus enters the skin through scratches, cracks in the skin, or small wounds you may not even know are there. For example, people who bite their fingernails are more at risk for warts because their teeth often create tiny cuts in the fingertip skin that they don’t even see. Once the virus enters the skin, it can cause a rapid growth of cells. These multiplying skin cells eventually emerge as a wart.

If your immune system is strong, the wart may go away on its own (after several months or more) or the virus may pass through without even causing a wart. Young children are typically more likely than adults to get warts because their immune system is still developing and because they are often in close contact with many other kids—at school and in sports or recreational activities.

Athletes, especially child and teen athletes, are also more at risk for warts because they usually share common shower areas, locker rooms, sports equipment and even towels sometimes. Their hands and feet are often in moist environments—like gloves, mitts, socks and cleats—where viruses thrive.

Does the HPV Vaccine Prevent All Warts?

The HPV strains that cause genital warts are known to be a factor in developing cervical or other cancers and pre-cancerous lesions. For this reason, an HPV vaccine was developed and has been available since 2006. There are two types of HPV vaccine now on the market—one protects against nine different HPV strains, and the other offers protection against four HPV strains. 

The HPV vaccine was designed to protect only against sexually transmitted HPV strains (those that cause genital warts); however, there have been some cases where the vaccine seems to have potential in treating non-genital warts (common or plantar warts). With the nonvalent HPV vaccine (that protects against nine strains), researchers theorize that one of the benefits is that the vaccine may create an immune response that may help cross-protect against other HPV strains that cause common or plantar warts.

Using a Wart Removal Product at Home

When you have common or plantar warts that you want to go away, you can easily treat these warts at home. If you have diabetes or another health condition that weakens your immune system, you should contact your doctor first. But if you have a strong, healthy immune system, you can most likely choose the wart removal product you find easiest and most convenient to use.

Compound W® has several wart removal products for adults and kids, including medicated bandages, freeze-off treatments, and topical gels and liquids for your hands and feet. Be sure to keep your wart covered so the wart-causing virus doesn’t spread anywhere or to anyone else.