Warts are small growths on the skin caused by a virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts are extremely common: it is estimated that about 25% of the population have a wart at any one time. Luckily, most warts are harmless. However, since they're caused by a virus, warts are very contagious.
Warts can grow anywhere on the skin. There are 6 clinically different types:
Keep in mind that some warts can become cancerous, and some skin cancers can look like warts, so always get them checked by your doctor. Also remember, the sooner a wart is treated, the easier it will be to destroy - so don't procrastinate.
Warts can be caused by 70 different strains of HPV. These viruses exist naturally on human skin, so when a person's immune system is weak (from illness or medications) they are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Common, plantar, or plane warts can be acquired through something as simple as a cut. Walking barefoot in public areas is also a high-risk activity for contracting warts. Genital warts are more serious and also the most contagious. They are transmitted through direct sexual contact and may take from 1 to 24 months to appear.
Warts are generally easy to see or feel. People notice them as abnormal growths, bumps, or other odd changes of the skin. More specifically, plantar and genital warts have very distinct symptoms and are more serious types of warts:
Luckily, most HPV infections do not become cancerous. However, certain strains of HPV have been associated with the development of cervical cancer, vulvar cancer, anal cancer, and, rarely, cancer of the penis. If and when complications arise, they're often due to genital warts. Warts can also cause a number of problems during pregnancy. They can become bigger and interfere with urination and even cause obstruction during delivery. In rare instances, a baby can also develop warts in the throat (laryngeal papillomatosis) if the mother has genital warts. For this reason, it's important for women to have regular Pap smears, especially those who have experienced HPV infection or genital warts.