Warts are growths in the skin that are caused by infection of the HPV – the human papillomavirus. They are localized, but are considered to be very contagious, so they typically spread to other parts of the body or to other people.

What are the symptoms of warts?

A bump with a rough surface will develop on the infected area. Typically, you will see several black dots in the center of the wart. These are tiny blood vessels that have grown into the wart, which are now supplying it with blood (or “feeding” it, so to speak). Warts can be found on any part of the body, though there are different types of warts most likely to develop in certain areas. For example, the bottoms of your feet are typical for plantar warts.

What causes warts?

When the HPV virus infects your skin, it causes skin cells to grow rapidly, which produces a wart. This virus can thrive in warm, damp areas, such as locker room floors, showers, and pools. You will contract the virus if you come into contact with it and you have skin that is vulnerable – either softened or broken. This contact can be in one of those areas, or by contacting someone who currently has the virus. While they are very contagious, they are more likely to grow in some than others.

How do you treat warts?

Some warts go away on their own within months or years. If you do decide to have a wart treated, you can treat it at home with salicylic acid, which can take a long time to rid your body of the wart. There are even home versions of cryotherapy, where you freeze the skin cells to kill the wart. A doctor will use an advanced form of this cryotherapy and shave off the skin area with a scalpel. While it does not scar, it can be quite painful.

How can you prevent warts?

Avoiding contact with the HPV virus is the best way to combat wart development. Avoid touching warts of your own or others’. In warm, moist areas like the ones listed above, wear shower shoes or sandals to protect your feet. Keep your feet clean and dry, and do not share personal items, such as razors or socks, with other people.