If you have ever had warts, you may be wondering how you got them. Warts are a result of a viral infection, and they can be highly contagious. Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. There are over 100 strains of HPV that have been identified. Some people with stronger immune systems seem to be more resistant to the virus and therefore do not get warts as frequently. Others seem to have continual outbreaks. Warts can appear anywhere on the skin and can take a variety of forms.
How Warts Are Spread
Many strains of HPV are spread by touching someone who has the virus. It may also be transferred by touching an object that was used by someone that has warts, such as a towel. If you have open cuts or wounds, you may be more susceptible to HPV. If you already have a wart, you can spread the virus to other parts of your body if you pick at or scratch it.
The type of HPV that causes genital warts is transmitted through sexual contact. Warts may not appear until as late as six months after you have been exposed to the virus, so you may not even be aware that you have genital warts until you are examined by a doctor. Genital warts cannot be cured, so you will continue to have outbreaks throughout your life. You can spread HPV to your partner even if you are not currently experiencing a wart outbreak.
Avoid scratching warts, as this can spread the virus to other parts of your body. If your warts are particularly itchy, try covering them with a bandage to discourage contact. Use footwear in public showers, bathrooms and locker rooms to minimize exposure.
When to Call a Doctor
If the warts become painful or red, or if they begin to bleed or ooze pus, contact your doctor. If previous treatments have not eliminated or diminished a wart after a few months, your doctor may be able to offer an alternative removal method. You should also make an appointment if you suspect that you have genital warts.