How to Detect a Wart and What to Do About Them

Person with wart on their hand How to Detect a Wart and What to Do About Them

Warts are often associated with toads and witches, but every day, hygienic people deal with warts from all walks of life. Let’s dispel the myths and cultural misconceptions about warts and learn how to identify nd treat them.

How to Detect and Treat a Wart

What Are Warts?

Warts, or molluscum as they’re sometimes known, are non-cancerous growths that develop on the skin. Warts are caused by a family of viruses called human papillomavirus. These are very common, very transmissible viruses that are most often spread by direct contact. Warts are most commonly found on the hands, but they can appear anywhere on the skin. Warts can occur on healthy, unbroken skin but are more easily transmitted in small cuts. HPV can linger on surfaces for some time, so it’s possible to become infected from touching something that was handled by a person with warts. Warts also often develop on the face for men and the legs and underarms of women. This is because these areas are also prone to small cuts. Children and teens are more susceptible to warts than adults, but anyone can develop them. People with weakened immune systems are also more prone to warts. In some instances, warts can damage or otherwise negatively impact the nearby finger or toenail.

There are different kinds of warts, as there are many forms of HPV. Common warts are the ones you most often see forming on the hands and face. These warts often will go away on their own, but this can take months or even years. Plantar warts or foot warts appear on the feet. Generally, these warts show up on the soles of your feet.

Identifying a Wart

A common wart is not hard to spot. They’re often rough, raised patches of skin that are easy to see. They crop up quickly and can linger for a very long time. They usually don’t come with much discomfort or pain, though they are more prone to injury because they protrude from the skin. Plantar warts are usually flat or inverted in appearance, but the big giveaway is usually pain or discomfort that feels like something is stuck in your skin. Flat warts are another form of warts that are more tricky to spot. Thankfully, flat warts are not fully flat. They’re just a lot less pronounced than common warts. These can also appear anywhere on the skin and usually develop in large clusters where skin was damaged. These warts are often associated with shaving.

Treating Warts

While warts do often go away on their own and very rarely pose health risks, they’re still unsightly and contagious to yourself and others. If you’re really unbothered by the appearance of a wart, ensure that it doesn’t come into contact with other skin by covering it or being mindful of it. Eventually, and it can take years, most warts will go away on their own. The ‘wait it out’ method is never going to be your dermatologist’s recommendation given warts’ ability to spread.

Your doctor can usually diagnose a wart with nothing more than a visual exam, but sometimes a biopsy may be taken to rule out melanoma or other forms of skin cancer. How your dermatologist will treat your wart depends on a few things. One common treatment for warts is cryotherapy. Cryotherapy involves applying extreme cold to the wart. This kills the infected skin without harming the skin surrounding it. While there are many at-home cryotherapy solutions for warts, it’s always recommended that you consult a dermatologist for treatment.

Another common topical solution for warts is the medication cantharidin. When applied to a wart, it slowly forms a blister beneath the wart, depriving it of blood and killing it. After a week or so, you can return to your dermatologist, where the dead wart will be removed. There are other treatments out there for warts, ranging from laser therapy to surgical excisions. Surgery is not often necessary, but if warts are serious, it may be a consideration.


Warts are not a big deal, and there’s little reason to worry about them, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want them gone. Think you’ve got a wart? Call the doctors at Northeast Dermatology Associates for an appointment.

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