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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care.

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Warts and Verrucae - Summary Age from 12 months onwards

  • Warts are small, rough growths which are caused by certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV). They can appear anywhere on the skin but are most commonly seen on the hands and feet.
  • A verruca (also known as a plantar wart) is a wart on the sole of the foot.
  • Cutaneous warts are common, and most people will have them at some point in their life.
  • Warts are usually spread by direct skin-to-skin contact, or indirectly via contact with contaminated floors or surfaces (for example in swimming pools or communal washing areas).
  • Benign warts in immunocompetent people almost never undergo malignant change.
  • Warts are diagnosed from their typical appearance:
    • Common warts are firm and raised with a rough surface that resembles a cauliflower (common on knuckles, knees, and fingers).
    • Plane warts are round, flat topped, and yellow (common on the backs of hands).
    • Plantar warts (verrucae) grow on the soles of the feet, often have dark dots in the centre, and may be painful.
    • Mosaic warts occur when palmar or plantar warts coalesce into larger plaques on the hands and feet.
  • Although warts can be cosmetically unsightly, they are not harmful, usually do not cause symptoms, and most resolve without treatment.
  • Advice should be offered on reducing the risk of transmission and limiting personal spread of warts. Treatment should be considered if a wart is painful, cosmetically unsightly, persistent, or the person requests treatment.
    • For the treatment of other warts in adults and older children, options are topical salicylic acid, cryotherapy, or a combination of both (cryotherapy is not recommended for younger children).