Are Warts Contagious?

Warts are a common skin condition, which can range from an aesthetic annoyance to a painful disturbance. You might see warts anywhere on the body, but they tend to occur most frequently on the face, hands, and feet. These unsightly bumps occur due to an infection on the outermost layers of skin, and they often seem to appear out of nowhere. Over the years, there have been many old wives’ tales about how warts develop—myths about touching toads and being cursed by witches have been particularly popular. The reality, however, is that all warts are caused by various subtypes of the human papilloma virus, or HPV, which is incredibly common and contagious. Keep reading to learn more about warts and how they develop so that you know which treatments may be effective and which are simply things of legend.

Warts are caused by HPV, which is contagious

You might think that HPV is synonymous with a sexually transmitted infection, but there are many different subtypes of the virus, only a handful of which are transmitted through genital contact. Many subtypes of HPV cause benign—if any—symptoms, most commonly, harmless warts on the surface of the skin. If you do develop common warts, keep in mind that it’s not possible to give yourself different types of warts on other parts of your body, as these are caused by different subtypes of HPV.

Warts may not spread immediately

Though it is important to recognize that warts are caused by a contagious viral infection, you should also realize that it can be virtually impossible to pinpoint the transmission of HPV, because the virus is everywhere. Additionally, there may be a latent period of weeks, months, or even years between the time of infection and the development of a wart. Because HPV is so ubiquitous, treatment is focused on eliminating unsightly warts rather than targeting the virus itself.

Warts may go away on their own

Verruca treatment

Folk treatments for warts may still be prominent because warts often just go away on their own – but credit is attributed to treatments like banana peels, needle pricks, and controlled burns. When you don’t want to wait it out in the hopes that a wart will just go away, steer clear of questionable at-home treatments and stick to those recommended by a doctor. Visiting a medical professional directly can give you access to treatments like cryofreezing, but there are some tricks you can use at home. Salicylic acid, tape occlusion, and over-the-counter topical medications are all safe and typically effective, but they can take a few weeks to work completely. In general, faster treatment options will also prove to be the most painful or uncomfortable.

Because treating warts can present the risk of infection and scar tissue, you should never attempt to treat a wart without consulting a doctor first. To get the treatment recommendations and instructions you need, contact a MeMD medical provider for an online medical exam for your common health concerns anytime.