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What Are Warts?

Warts are small harmless tumors of the skin caused by a virus called the human papillomavirus. The appearance of warts can differ based on the type of wart and where it is located on the body. Most warts are well defined, with skin thickening.

Warts are most common in children, between ages 12-16 years. Up to 30% of warts disappear by themselves within 6 months. Most will disappear without any treatment within 3 years.

female physician examining an older patient's hand

What Causes Warts?

Warts are caused by the DNA-containing human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus enters the skin after direct contact with recently shed viruses kept alive in warm, moist environments such as a locker room, or by direct contact with an infected person. The wart site is often an area of recent injury. The incubation time-from when the virus is contracted until a wart appears-can be 1-8 months.

How Do I Get Rid of Warts?

The most commonly used medical treatment of warts is cryotherapy. Cryotherapy or liquid nitrogen is used to deep freeze the wart tissue. When liquid nitrogen is applied to the wart, the water in the cells expands, thus exploding the infected tissue. The exploded cells can no longer hide the human papillomavirus from the body’s immune system. The immune system then works to destroy the virus particles.

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