image if wart on big toe

Wart Myths Debunked

Out of all of the skin conditions out there, it’s quite possibly warts that cause the most confusion. Let’s clear up some of the most common myths surrounding this type of skin growth and set the record straight.

Myth #1: Warts are Caused by Touching Toads

You don’t have to worry about getting warts from toads. It’s actually the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes warts in people, and only a few strains of HPV cause the type of warts that form on the hands. Since HPV is only carried by humans, toads aren’t capable of giving people warts.

image of a toad

Myth #2: Warts Have Roots

Warts are growths that form from the top layer of the skin.  Contrary to popular belief, warts never form roots.

image of wart anatomy infographic

Myth #3: Warts Aren’t Contagious

Warts are caused by a contagious virus, the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can enter the skin through a scratch or a cut. The virus can be transmitted through touching and by sharing personal items such as towels and razors. You can spread the virus to another person and also from one part of your body to another.

image of letters h p v

Myth #4: All Types of Warts are the Same

There are several different types of warts:

  • Common warts are the most common type of wart (as the name suggests) and are usually found on the hands, particularly the fingers, although they can occur in other areas.
  • Plantar warts occur most commonly on the ankles and feet.
  • Filiform warts usually appear on the face, especially around the mouth, eyes and nose.
  • Periungual warts form around and under toenails and fingernails.
  • Flat warts usually appear on the face, especially the cheeks and forehead.
  • Genital warts are caused by an STI (sexually transmitted infection) and occur on the genitals and anus.
image of warts on bottom of feet

Myth #5: Warts Are Forever / Can’t Be Treated

If you have a wart, you’re not stuck with it forever. There are a number of different treatments for warts, for example:

image of medicated wart remover
image of person applying wart remover on foot

While warts can be treated and removed, note that the wart may form again if the virus remains in the skin. Unfortunately, wart treatments don’t kill the virus that causes warts.

Myth #6: It’s Impossible to Prevent Warts

Although they’re common, warts are not an inevitable part of life and you can minimize your risk of getting warts by following some basic steps including:

  1. Don’t touch another person’s wart.
  2. Keep your hands clean by washing them often with warm water and soap.
  3. Don’t share personal items such as towels, nail clippers and razors.
  4. If you get a scratch or a cut, thoroughly clean the area immediately and cover it with a bandage.
  5. Avoid going barefoot in public areas such as locker rooms and areas around public swimming pools.
image of man wearing flip flops


Frequently Asked Questions
How to identify a wart

In order to identify a wart, you may need a dermatologist to make an official diagnosis. However, there are some typical signs that may help identify a wart. The most common type of wart, called a common wart, forms most frequently on the hands, especially the fingers. However, they can also form on the feet, in particular the toes. Common warts are fleshy skin growths that are small in size and grainy in texture. They often contain small blood vessels that appear as miniscule black spots.

Another common type of wart is a plantar wart, which usually forms on the bottoms of the feet. Plantar warts are especially common on the weight-bearing areas such as the ball of the foot and the heel. These types of warts are typically small and rough in texture. They can be tender when pressure is applied, such as when standing or walking. Like common warts, plantar warts may have what looks like tiny black flecks that are actually blood vessels. Plantar warts may grow in clusters or as a single wart. They are usually flat because of the constant pressure of walking and standing, and they often form underneath a callus and grow inward.

Filiform warts look like long, spiky projections. They typically form on the neck and face, including lips and eyelids.

Flat warts usually develop on the face and on the backs of the hands.  These types of warts are small and flat, and they usually grow in clusters. 
Other types of warts include genital warts, which form on the anus and genitals, and periungual warts, which appear under fingernails and toenails.

How to get rid of warts

The two most common ways to get rid of warts are with a topical treatment containing salicylic acid and a wart removal method called freezing.

Wart removal products with salicylic acid work by slowly peeling away the cells of the wart. Dr. Scholl’s® CLEAR Away® Plantar Wart Remover makes it easy and convenient to remove plantar warts, the warts that typically form on the bottoms of the feet. The convenient package contains disks medicated with salicylic acid along with cushioning pads that you place over the medicated disk. For common warts, Dr. Scholl’s® CLEAR Away® Wart Remover with DURAGEL® technology is an ideal choice. Medicated disks stay in place on fingers and toes with the help of a flexible bandage that moves with you.

Wart freezing products use a cooling agent to eliminate warts.  Dr. Scholl’s Freeze Away Max™wart remover works on both plantar and common warts. The product contains dimethyl ether for fast, simple wart removal at home. 

You can get the benefits of both salicylic acid and freezing from a single product with Dr. Scholl’s® Dual Action Freeze Away® Wart Remover. This dual action system is suitable for both common and plantar warts.

Some warts are very stubborn and don’t respond to over-the-counter treatment. In these cases, prescription treatment or surgical removal may be recommended by a doctor.

What causes warts?

Warts are caused by a form of HPV (human papillomavirus), a very common virus. The virus causes excess skin cell growth, prompting the formation of a wart. Keep in mind there are many HPV viruses.  The one that causes warts is different from those that cause other health issues.

Genital warts spread through sexual contact. However, most kinds of warts form when the virus enters the skin through small cracks. The virus can spread through shared personal items, by touching the skin of someone who has the virus and by walking around barefoot on virus-contaminated areas. HPV can also spread from one body part to another.

What do genital warts look like?

Genital warts typically appear as small, rough skin-colored bumps or growths. They can develop as a single bump or in clusters. When they form in clusters, they often look like small cauliflower florets. Genital warts are usually found on and around the anus and genitals.

Are warts contagious?

Yes, warts are contagious. They are caused by HPV (human papillomavirus), which is a contagious virus. Warts can spread in a number of ways. You can get genital warts from sexual contact with someone who has the virus. Other kinds of warts are also contagious and can spread through skin-to-skin contact or by sharing personal items such as razors and linens. You can also get warts by walking barefoot in a public area that’s contaminated with the virus.

What is a wart?

A wart is a noncancerous skin growth that forms when skin cells grow at a rapid pace after being infected with one of the many types of HPV (human papillomavirus). 

There are several different type of warts, the most prevalent being the common wart, which typically appears on hands and fingers. Plantar warts, which form on the feet, are also common. Other types of warts include filiform and flat warts which usually form on the face and hands, periungual warts, which affect the nails of fingers and toes, and genital warts, which develop on and around the genitals as well as the anus. 

What does a wart look like?

There are several different types of warts, each with its own characteristics.

Common warts are usually small and round. They frequently contain small black dots. These types of warts are typically found on the hands, especially the fingers, although they can be found on other areas of the body such as the feet.
Plantar warts are small and may grow as an individual wart or in clusters. They typically form on the weight-bearing areas of the sole of the foot. Because of the constant pressure, they are usually flat. They often appear to contain tiny black specks.
Flat warts are smooth, flat warts that are very small, usually smaller than other types of warts. They typically grow in groups on the face or on the back of hands. They may be brownish-yellow, pink or flesh-colored.
Filiform warts are small and slender warts that typically appear on the neck and face, including the eyelids and lips. They typically look like spiky projections on the skin. 
Periungual warts usually appear as thickened skin around the nails of either fingers or toes. They usually start off shiny-looking and small (the size of a pinhead) but then they can grow to be the size of a pea. They also often become gray, brown or black in color and irregular in texture. They sometimes look like small bunches of cauliflower.
Genital warts form on and near the anus and genitals. They usually appear as small flesh-colored bumps and may develop as an individual wart or in a cluster. The clusters often resemble cauliflower.

How do you get warts?

You get warts from the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are several different strains of HPV that can cause warts in people.

The strains of HPV that cause genital warts spread through sexual contact. Other types of warts occur when the virus enters the skin through direct contact with an infected person, by sharing personal items with someone who has the virus and by coming into contact with a surface that’s contaminated with the virus

How to get rid of plantar warts

You can get rid of plantar warts by using a treatment product with salicylic acid or with a treatment method often referred to as freezing.

Salicylic acid is an exfoliating agent that helps eliminate warts layer by layer. Doctors often recommend soaking the wart for several minutes and then gently buffing it with a pumice stone or file before applying a salicylic acid product. 

For convenient, no-mess plantar wart treatment with salicylic acid, try Dr. Scholl’s® CLEAR Away® Plantar Wart Remover. Simply apply a medicated disk directly over the top of the plantar wart and then cover it with a cushioning pad. You can replace the disk every two days for a period of up to 12 weeks.

Freezing is also an effective method for getting rid of plantar warts. This method uses a chemical agent to freeze the wart, causing it to fall off Dr. Scholl’s Freeze Away Max™wart remover helps eliminate plantar warts with a fast, one-step treatment. 

If over-the-counter wart treatments aren’t effective, see your doctor. Some plantar warts may require stronger prescription treatments or excision, which involves cutting the wart off.

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