Warts on the hands can sometimes pop up suddenly in many people. Other individuals have suffered from warts for what seems like their entire lives, recalling the annoyance as children. So what causes warts on hands? The short answer is a virus. No, this virus is not spread by handling toads or frogs or any other origins born of old wive’s tales. Also neither the warts themselves nor the virus strain that causes them poses any real risk. It is sensible however, to wonder where they came from and if they can spread.
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Hand wart causes explained
The cause of hand warts is the same cause as every other wart that can show up on your body. This is a virus called the human papillomavirus. For those familiar with HPV have probably heard of it as the cause of cancer or genital warts, but don’t worry as hand warts are not related to and can not cause either of these issues. HPV has many strains, over 100 and each affects a specific area that isn’t really interchangeable. So hand warts won’t affect your mouth, genitals or feet, an entirely different strain would do these things. Hand warts will also not lead to cancer or any danger to health.
There is no other cause of warts on the human body besides HPV, so if you have warts, it had to originate from this viral infection. HPV is unfortunately almost everywhere and in up to 75% of the population. Despite this, the large majority of people exposed never have warts at all. If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the unlucky ones, but on the plus side as mentioned above there is no threat to your health.
Additionally, warts often go away on their own, for good within months to a year even without treatment. If the waiting game hasn’t worked out for you, removal is always an option. For more detailed information on how to get rid of warts on hands, see this article.
How do I get warts on hands?
In order to get warts on your hands you’d first need to be exposed to HPV. Most people who have common warts, such as those that appear on their hands or fingers, never actually know the original source of their warts. The virus that causes warts could be from a person you’ve never met whose wart just so happened to touch a public bathroom door you used, or could be from a close friend with warts whose hand you’ve shaken.
You can contract them from a few odd things like:
- Shaking hands.
- Wart covered skin contact during sex or sports.
- Touching bandaids that have previously covered warts.
There is no reason to treat friends or family members any differently if they have warts. It can be helpful to avoid contacting the wart directly, particularly if you have broken skin. Otherwise there is little need to worry in most cases beyond avoiding rough, significant contact with the warts themselves.
There are multiple different avenues through which wart infections typically start and we will discuss these later on in the article. Common warts grow and appear on hands, fingers and knees as well as elbows. Warts will never appear without an HPV infection so proper identification of skin growths should be performed just in case they are not truly warts.
Once exposed to the common wart strains of HPV, it can take months or even a year for warts to appear. Once again, in most cases an exposure won’t ever result in warts and there is a general consensus the strength of the immune system’s response to the virus affects this heavily.
Identifying the problem
Proper identification of warts is necessary so that you don’t accidentally over or under treat a skin problem. Trying to remove non-warts with wart removal medications can result in pain and irritation so it is best to know exactly what you’re looking for.
Almost all warts that grow on the hands or fingers are one of these two types:
- Common warts,
- Flat warts.
Common warts are as their name implies, the most common type of wart found on the hands or fingers. These warts usually are grey or brown, but can also be skin colored. On your hands common warts may look like blisters and may be firm to the touch. Dome shaped warts are also very frequent.
Flat warts are also called juvenile warts because they are most often seen in children. They have smooth, flat surfaces and are usually quite small. The issue is they cluster in large groups and it is not uncommon for a dozen or more to be grouped together. Flat warts are usually skin colored but can be yellow, brown or pink.
How are warts on hands transmitted?
Warts on hands and elsewhere on the body are transmitted via skin to skin contact. The wart itself is the human papillomavirus’ way of spreading itself. A wart is contagious, infected skin. As such, touching non warty parts of someone’s hand or body won’t transmit the wart unless it had been rubbed their extensively previously. For example, shaking hands with someone who has an arm wart will not give you warts. However if they were to have a hand wart and you touch it during a handshake, you could possibly have warts transmitted to you.
Due to the fact HPV is so common within humans and thus multiple public locations, there is a large variety of ways you can ultimately contract it or spread them.
Some examples are:
- Sharing a bath towel or hand towel that has been rubbed on another person’s wart.
- Faucets and sink handles.
- Doorknobs and handles.
- Any place or item that came into contact with a wart.
Who is more likely to get hand warts?
Even among those many opportunities, warts do not spread as easily as it sounds or else more people would have them. In truth it often takes open skin for the infection to take hold. Scratches, or open wounds no matter how slight will greatly increase your susceptibility to contracting the virus that causes HPV. People who frequently bite their nails or suffer from hang nails are also at risk as their is sometimes skin tearing or scratching associated with it. Due to the immune system connection, those with a weakened or impaired immune system are significantly more likely to get hand warts post viral exposure. There is no 100% sure way to prevent hand warts due to the presence of the virus and people who carry it being all around us.
You chance of developing hand warts increases if you have live with individuals who have warts. In this case HPV will likely be present in small amounts in many places around the house like your:
- door handle,
- or your shower.
It is entirely possible to never get HPV or warts in these situations and millions of people suceed in exactly that every day without knowing or taking any extra precautions. If you have warts, you can reduce the chance of spreading by not sharing towels and wearing bandaids over your warts daily, especially when handling anything that other people will touch. You can also consider the many simple and cheap wart removal options available over the counter at your local CVS Pharmacy or drug store.
Warts on the hands are a harmless but contagious skin condition. The cause of all hand warts is an infection with the virus HPV of which warts are a symptom. If you think skin growths on your hands are warts, it can be useful to see a doctor to confirm and to possibly discuss treatment and removal options. Many warts on the hands will simply go away on their own but others can continue to multiply and return. It is these cases where treatment is the best option. People with cuts, scrapes or open wounds are the most likely to get hand warts, but individuals can still get infected if vigorous skin contact with warts is made.