Warts on Hands

There are many different types of warts. The type of wart most commonly found on the hands is the common wart or verruca vulgaris. Common warts appear as small, fleshy, rough bumps on the fingers and hands. Another name for common warts is “seed warts,” because broken blood vessels in the wart give the appearance of tiny black “seeds.” Common warts (like all warts) are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 100 recognized strains of HPV, and at least 60 of those virus strains are known to cause warts. HPV causes the rapid growth of cells on the outer layer of the skin (i.e., the wart). Warts on hands may occur as a single wart or as a cluster of warts. Warts affect only the surface of the skin. Common warts are usually not painful. Warts are not cancerous.

HPV is spread, like any other virus, through either direct or indirect contact (e.g., shaking hands with a person who has common warts or handling a towel that had been used by a person with common warts). The risk of contracting warts from another person is very low, and not everyone that comes into contact with HPV will get warts. Children and young adults and people with compromised immune systems are more likely to develop warts. It takes between 2 and 6 months for warts to develop after infection with HPV. Common warts are most likely to grow in areas where the skin has been damaged and are common on the fingers of people who either bite their fingernails or pick at hangnails.

Warts on hands will usually clear up without any treatment. This process may take only a few months in children but can take up to 4 years in adults. Warts that are bothersome, painful, or multiplying at a rapid rate should be treated. Prompt treatment of a wart may prevent additional warts from developing or warts spreading to other parts of the body. Common warts can be treated at home with daily applications of salicylic acid, which comes in many different formulations (e.g., liquid, gel, patch). One home remedy involves covering the wart with duct tape for periods of up to 6 days at a time followed by soaking. Treatments that wart sufferers may receive in their doctors’ offices include cryotherapy or freezing with liquid nitrogen, cantharidin (a topical treatment that causes a blister to form underneath the wart, separating the wart from the surface of the skin and allowing the doctor to cut the wart away), and surgical removal if the wart has been resistant to other treatments.


Warts information center [Internet]; c2009 [cited 2010 Jun 15]. Available from: https://warts.org/common-warts.htm

Merck Manuals Online Medical Library [Internet]. Warts [cited 2010 Jun 15]. Available from: http://www.merck.com/mmpe/print/sec10/ch122/ch122c.html

American Academy of Dermatology [Internet]; c2010. Warts [cited 2010 Jun 15]. Available from: http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/common_warts.html

Mayo Clinic.com [Internet]; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; c1998-2010. Common warts [cited 2010 Jun 15]. Available from:

David Christian

David Christian studied Philosophy at Cardinal Glennon College in St. Louis, MO and served in the US Army. He is the Head Writer, Subject Matter Expert and Dr. Coordinator at warts.org. Find out more about David here.

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