HomeHealth articleswartsWhat Are Warts and Verrucas Infections in HPV?

An Overview of Warts and Verrucas

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Warts and verrucas are both caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Read below to learn more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Published At May 3, 2023
Reviewed AtAugust 21, 2023


Warts and verrucas are common skin and mucous membrane infections caused by the HPV virus. Warts are typically found on the hands and feet, while verrucas (also known as plantar warts) are specifically found on the soles of the feet. HPV infections are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, and they can be spread by direct contact with a wart or verruca or by indirect contact with an object or surface that has been contaminated with the virus. The virus infects the top layer of skin and causes the skin cells to grow rapidly, leading to the development of a wart or verruca. These growths can vary in appearance and may be raised, flat, or rough.

What Are Warts?

Warts are small, non-cancerous growths on the skin that are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They can appear anywhere on the body, common sites are the hands, feet, and face. Warts can vary in appearance, but they are typically firm and raised with a rough, irregular surface. They can be round or oval and range in size from a tiny pinhead to several centimeters in diameter. Warts can also be flat and smooth or appear as a cluster of small, closely spaced bumps. Warts are contagious. They spread through direct or indirect contact with an infected person or object. They also spread from one part of the body to another by scratching or picking.

What Are Verrucas?

Verrucas (plantar warts) are a type of wart that affects the soles of the feet. The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes these warts. It infects the skin and causes the cells to grow rapidly, leading to the development of a wart. Verrucas can vary in appearance, but they typically have a rough, grainy texture and are flat or slightly raised. They can be painful, especially when walking or standing, and may have small black dots in the center that are actually tiny blood vessels. Verrucas are contagious and can be spread through direct or indirect contact with an infected person or object. They are commonly found in public areas like swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms, where the virus can be easily transmitted from one person to another.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

  • Warts:

  1. Small, rough bumps on the skin, usually on the hands or feet.

  2. Flesh-colored, white, pink, or brown in appearance.

  3. May have a rough, scaly surface or a smooth, flat appearance.

  4. May appear singly or in clusters.

  5. Can be painful or itchy.

  6. May bleed if picked or scratched.

  • Verrucas (plantar warts):

  1. Flat, callus-like growths on the soles of the feet.

  2. May be painful to walk on.

  3. Have small black dots in the center.

  4. May have a rough surface.

  5. May appear singly or in clusters.

  1. Soft, moist, pink or flesh-colored growths in the genital area.

  2. May be raised or flat.

  3. May appear singly or in clusters.

  4. May be itchy or bleed during sex.

  5. Can be transmitted through sexual contact.

What Are Factors That Can Increase the Risk of Developing Warts and Verrucas?

  • Direct contact with someone who has warts or verrucas.

  • Walking barefoot in public areas like swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers.

  • Having a weakened immune system.

  • Having a history of previous warts or verrucas.

  • Having certain occupations, such as those that involve frequent hand washing or exposure to chemicals.

How to Diagnose Warts and Verrucas?

Warts and verrucas are typically diagnosed based on their appearance and location. A healthcare provider may perform a physical exam and review the patient's medical history to confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, the healthcare provider may perform a skin biopsy to rule out other skin conditions or to confirm the diagnosis if the wart or verruca is unusual in appearance. In addition, if a patient has multiple warts or verrucas, the healthcare provider may perform tests to determine the specific type of HPV virus that is causing the growths.

In rare cases, certain types of HPV can cause more serious health problems, such as cervical cancer in women. Therefore, it is important for women to have regular cervical cancer screening tests, such as a Pap (papanicolaou) test or HPV test, as recommended by their healthcare provider.

Is Warts and Verrucas Serious Infection?

Warts and verrucas are generally not serious infections, but they can be uncomfortable and unsightly. In some cases, they can also interfere with daily activities, especially when located on the feet or hands. While most warts and verrucas will go away on their own over time, some cases may require treatment to relieve symptoms or prevent the spread of the virus. Treatment options include topical medications, freezing (cryotherapy), and surgical removal.

In rare cases, certain types of HPV can lead to more serious health problems, such as cervical cancer in women.

What Are the Treatment Options for Warts and Verrucas?

There are several treatment options for warts and verrucas. The best treatment option will depend on the location, size, and number of warts or verrucas, as well as the patient's age and overall health. Some treatment options are:

  • Topical Medications: Over-the-counter or prescription-strength creams, gels, or liquids containing salicylic acid, can be applied directly to the wart or verruca to dissolve the affected skin cells. This treatment is often combined with other methods, such as freezing or laser therapy.

  • Cryotherapy: Freezing the wart or verruca with liquid nitrogen is a common treatment method. The cold temperature kills the affected cells, which are then sloughed off as the skin heals. This method may require several treatments to completely remove the wart or verruca.

  • Laser Therapy: This treatment uses a focused beam of light to destroy the wart or verruca. It may be used for larger or stubborn warts or verrucas.

  • Surgical Removal: For larger or painful warts or verrucas, surgery may be necessary to remove the growth. This can be done using a scalpel or a laser.

  • Immunotherapy: This treatment involves injecting a substance, such as interferon or a vaccine, into the wart or verruca to stimulate the body's immune system to fight the virus.

Is Recurrence of Warts and Verrucas Common?

Yes, the recurrence of warts and verrucas is relatively common. This is because the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes warts and verrucas can remain in the body even after the growths have been treated and removed. When the immune system is weakened, the virus can become active again, leading to the development of new warts or verrucas. This can occur even if the previous growths were successfully treated.

Additionally, the virus can spread from one area of the body to another, or from person to person, through direct or indirect contact. Therefore, it is important to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, such as avoiding direct contact with warts or verrucas, practicing good hygiene, and using protective measures like shoes or sandals in public areas.


Warts and verrucas are not usually serious, but it is important to follow the full course of treatment recommended by the healthcare provider and to continue practicing good hygiene and taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus after the growths have been treated

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha
Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Infectious Diseases


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