Warts - are they contagious?

Warts are caused by a virus that affects the cells of the surface of the skin and causes rough lumps to grow either out of or into the skin and tissue underneath the site of infection.

There are several different types of wart, and they are grouped into three main types, but all are caused by direct contact with someone else with the wart infection. 

A planar wart or verruca is found on the feet, and is usually transferred from person to person in places such as changing rooms and showers where minute damage to the surface of the skin can allow the virus to enter the sole of the foot. They cause considerable pain and discomfort when standing or walking.

Common warts may occur anywhere and often develop into clusters over time. They are frequently transferred between children and teenagers and are not usually harmful but may cause some discomfort if they are subjected to pressure or frequent injury. Usually common warts are found on fingers, knees and the back of the hands, and they form small raised lumps that can develop into cauliflower-like growths.

Genital warts are spread by sexual contact, they occur around the sexual organs and may also develop into clusters but they do not usually cause any pain.  Any warts, lumps or changes to the genital area should be reported to a doctor for treatment as soon as they are noticed.

Most other warts are easily treated with preparations available from your community pharmacy.  Wart treatments available from your pharmacy are either sprays which freeze the wart or lotions that you apply onto the wart to burn it off over a period of time.  Successful removal of warts requires repeated treatment as the wart viruses are difficult to treat so be prepared to persevere in order to prevent the wart growing back.  

It is important when treating warts to protect the skin around the wart as it may be damaged by the treatment you may use.  Your community pharmacist can advise you of the most suitable treatment to remove warts effectively and can advise you about protecting the skin around treated warts in order to prevent any damage to the skin.

Speak to your pharmacist - they know how to help you treat minor skin conditions and infections such as warts.