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How to deal with warts on hands and fingers

Light pink manicure on short nails with Gypsophila.
What’s the best way to deal with warts on hands & fingers? This article contains all the details, including at-home remedies & prevention advice.

Summary

1What are warts?

Warts are small, raised bumps that form on your skin. It’s possible to gets warts on hands, on fingers, and on other parts of your body too.

2Who gets warts?

Children and teenagers are more prone to getting warts, so too are people who bite their nails.

3What causes warts?

Warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The virus can get into the body through a cut or scrape.

We’re all prone to getting warts. Interestingly, younger people are more likely to get them than adults.

It’s estimated that 1 in 3 children and teenagers have warts compared to 3 to 5% of adults. Younger people are potentially more susceptible to getting warts because their immune systems haven’t fully developed.1

Want to know more about warts? We’ve done our wart research and have answered all sorts of common wart-related questions below. Take a look…

What are warts? 

Warts are small, raised bumps that form on your skin. It’s possible to gets warts on hands, on fingers, and on other parts of your body too.2

These lumps of skin aren’t dangerous, but they can look rather ugly, depending on how large they are or their colour. Some of them can be pretty embarrassing too, especially if they’re in a place everybody can see. 

There are different types of warts, e.g. warts on your feet that are more commonly referred to as verrucas. And there are periungual warts that tend to develop around fingernails and toenails (we go into the details of the different types of warts a bit later in this article). It’s also possible to develop just one wart on its own or a cluster of warts.3

Who gets warts? 

Children and teenagers are more prone to getting warts, so too are people who bite their nails.4 It’s been known for people who spend a lot of time with their hands in water, for instance, if you’re a pot washer in a restaurant, to be more likely to develop warts too.5

Warts on fingers: why are you getting them?

 In this article we focus specifically on what causes warts on fingers.

What causes warts? 

Warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The virus can get into the body through a cut or scrape, so if you bite your nails or pick your cuticles6, it can create opportunities for HPV to get into your system.7 

There are 100 different strains of HPV, which is the main culprit for causing warts. However, not everybody who comes into contact with HPV goes on to develop warts.

The virus is responsible for triggering extra cell growth, which makes the outer layer of skin thicker and harder in a particular area (e.g. a patch of skin on your hands or your feet). 8

Common causes of warts include:9

1. Biting your nails

Nibbling away at your fingernails or cuticles may be second nature to you, but it can create an opening for HPV to enter your skin in the process.

Handpicked contentHow to stop biting your nails
 

2. Weak immune systems

Warts are caused by a virus. If your immune system is weak, then it may not be able to fight off HPV. It’s the main reason why children tend to get warts much more often than adults. Their immune systems haven’t yet fully built up their defenses against the numerous types of viruses, HPV included, that exist.

 

3. Touching somebody else’s warts

Warts are contagious and can therefore be spread from person-to-person through contact alone. It’s possible to get them from shaking hands, touching door handles and using keyboards, and various other objects that have also been used by people with warts.10
 

4. Coming into contact with towels or other items used by somebody with warts

Using somebody’s towel, who has warts, or slipping your feet into their slippers or shoes (if they have verrucas) can put you at risk of developing warts too.
 

5. Your bare hands or feet touching floors or surfaces that people with warts on their hands or fingers have used

Stepping out of the shower or bath and onto a mat or floor where their feet have been can lead to you getting warts.
 

6. Poor hygiene

Not washing your hands or feet after you’ve come into contact with items or surfaces used by people with warts, or just not generally washing regularly, can mean you may wind up with developing warts.
 

7. Having dry skin

It can lead to cracks and sores developing on your hands or feet that are the ideal place for HPV to enter your body and for warts to grow.
 

8. Not wearing flip flops or sandals in communal changing or shower areas

This means your feet are in direct contact with surfaces that have possibly been used by people with contagious warts on their feet.
 

9. Cutting yourself while shaving

HPV is more likely to cause warts when it comes into contact with damaged skin. Cuts and nicks from shaving can provide an avenue for infection, which is why it’s not uncommon for men to develop warts in their beard, while women often get them on their legs.11
 

Does a wart on your finger mean you have HPV? 

As we mentioned a bit further up, common warts are caused by HPV, which is an umbrella term for more than 100 types of viruses. Certain strains of HPV can cause common warts to develop on hands, fingers and other non-genital areas of the body. 12

Summary 

Warts are small, raised bumps that form on your skin and are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). It’s possible to get them on your hands, fingers and feet, as well as other parts of your body. They can sometimes go away on their own.

What does a wart look like?

Warts can: 13 14 
  • Be firm and rough. 
  • Appear on palms, knuckles, knees and fingers. 
  • Be round and flat. 
  • Or look bumpy and raised. 
  • Develop in clusters, most commonly on feet and hands. 
  • Be flesh coloured. 
  • Or look brown or yellow. 
  • Resemble calluses or corns (plantar warts in particular). 
  • Look like long, narrow columns of flesh that stick out from the skin (e.g, filiform warts).
  • Can contain tiny black dots, which are mini blood clots that look like seeds (mainly associated with common warts).

Are there different types of warts? 

Yes, there are. Warts that appear on people’s hands are called Palmar warts and those that appear on people’s feet are known as Plantar warts. 15

Types of warts

Common warts

Are usually flesh-coloured and appear on the backs of hands, fingers, around fingernails and on feet. They tend to be small and feel rough and hard.
 

Plantar warts

These warts aren’t raised, but develop within your skin. They’re flat, tough and thick and can look very similar to calluses. They usually have black dots on the surface of them
 

Flat warts

Are smaller and smoother than other warts and tend to grow in large numbers, e.g. 20 to 100 at a time. They’re mostly found on children’s faces, men’s beard areas and on women’s legs.
 

Filiform warts

Grow rapidly and look thread-like and spiky. They tend to develop on the face, around people’s mouths, eyes and nose.
 

Genital warts

Typically look like skin-coloured clusters of bumps that are almost cauliflower-like.
 

Verrucas

Are warts that appear on people’s feet and have tiny black dots underneath small patches of hard skin.
 

Summary

Warts can look different, depending on their type. For example, filiform warts are thread-like and spiky, while common warts tend to be flesh-coloured and are small, rough and hard.
 

Are warts on your finger and hands the same? 

Common warts tend to develop on people’s hands and fingers. Other strains of HPV can cause different types of warts to appear on different parts of the body, such as genital warts. 16

Are warts contagious?

Yes, they can easily spread from person-to-person. This can happen by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces or close skin contact. Interestingly, they’re more likely to spread if skin is wet or damaged (e.g. cuts and scrapes). 

To prevent warts from spreading:17
  1. Don't share towels, flannels, socks or shoes if you have a wart or verruca.
  2. Do avoid shaving over the wart due to the fact this causes microtears that can easily transfer warts from one area to another. 
  3. Don't bite your nails or put fingers in your mouth that have warts on them (the virus can quickly spread from your hands to your face). 
  4. Do cover your warts up with a plaster or bandage, depending on the size, to prevent them from spreading to other parts of your body or to other people (e.g. when you shake hands or touch or use their phone). 
  5. Don't walk barefoot in public places if you’ve got a verruca.
  6. Do wash your hands thoroughly immediately after touching your wart(s) to avoid developing more or passing them on to others. 
  7. Don't scratch or pick at your wart as it may cause it to spread. 
  8. Do wash your hands thoroughly immediately after touching your wart(s) to minimise your chance of getting more or passing them to other people. 
  9. Don’t avoid taking appropriate measures to treat your warts (more on this below). Wart treatments can help clear up your warts more quickly.

Summary

Warts are contagious and can easily spread to other parts of your body and from person-to-person. If you have them, it’s important you take care to prevent them from coming into contact with other people, both directly and indirectly.
 

Wart on finger treatments

Duct tape occlusion

How does it work? 

By removing the wart, layer by layer, over the course of several weeks. 

How do you do it? 

Place a small piece of duct tape on your wart and leave it there for three to six days. Remove the tape and gently scrape the wart down with a nail file or pumice stone, leaving it exposed to air for around 12 hours. Reapply the duct tape and repeat the process until the wart is gone completely.
 

Apple cider vinegar

How does it work? 

Apple cider vinegar is a mild acid that may burn off the wart and attack HPV. 

How do you use it? 

Create a mixture of two parts apple cider vinegar and one part water. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and apply it to the wart. Tape or bandage it in place overnight. Repeat every night until the wart has gone.
 

Garlic extract

How does it work? 

Garlic’s anti-viral properties extract the wart.

How do you use it?

Place crushed garlic on the wart and cover. Reapply daily, until the wart has gone. You can also file down the wart with a pumice stone before replacing the garlic every day.
 

Clear nail varnish

How does it work? 

It reportedly smothers the wart and kills it off. 

How do you use it?

Coat the wart with a layer of clear nail polish every other day for two weeks.
 

Professional wart treatment

Most warts tend to disappear on their own after one to five years and don’t require any medical treatment. According to some studies, 50% of warts disappear within a year and 70% go away on their own after two years. 

But some warts don’t just simply vanish. For these types of warts, treatment includes salicylic acid creams and gels or other non-prescription methods, cryotherapy – in which nitrogen is sprayed on to the wart to destroy the cells, laser treatment or minor surgery.
 

What happens if you don’t treat a wart?

If you don’t treat a wart, it may go away on its own, but there’s no telling if or when it will happen. In the meantime, it may grow larger or even spread to other parts of your body, or even, to other people. 

Depending on how raised and whereabouts they are, they may even start to catch on things and become sore in the process. If your wart becomes large or painful, bleeds, looks different or generally causes you discomfort or distress, speak to your GP about the treatment options available to you.

Summary 

Some warts may go away on their own if left untreated however, this doesn’t always happen. Warts can be treated with at various at-home remedies, as well as professional wart treatments from your GP.

Takeaway 

It’s inevitable that all of us, at some point, will develop a wart. Some people find their warts go away on their own, while others find that theirs linger around or they actually just prefer to get rid of them.

Just as there are many different types of warts, there are many different types of treatments (prescription and home remedies) to help tackle them. For more on the options for removing warts, read, ‘A quick guide to wart removal.
Last updated: 1 June 2021

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