You have probably seen someone who has warts on their hands, or you may even have them yourself. Warts are a very common skin problem that affects millions of people around the world, and hands are a very common location for them. Did you know that common skin warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infections?
Read on to discover everything you need to know about HPV warts on hands, symptoms, causes, and treatment.
A guide to HPV warts on hands, symptoms, causes, and treatment
What are HPV warts on hands?
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a type of virus that can cause a range of health problems, including warts and certain types of cancer. There are more than 150 known strains of HPV, but they’re not all the same — different HPV strains can be high or low risk, and they can cause different issues.
HPV is commonly associated with genital warts and different types of HPV; however, HPV is also responsible for common skin warts. As we mentioned above, there are many different strains of HPV, but only a few of them are responsible for most cases of HPV skin warts. HPV warts are small, non-cancerous skin growths that can appear practically anywhere on your body. Plantar warts that affect the soles of your feet are also very common.
A study published by the Journal of Clinical Virologyfound that strains 27, 57, 2, and 1 were the strains most commonly found in samples of skin warts. According to Stanford University, specific strains can be responsible for certain types of HPV:
- Common warts: HPV-2, HPV-7
- Plantar warts: HPV-1, HPV-2, HPV-4
- Flat cutaneous warts: HPV-3, HPV-10
It’s important to highlight the fact that these strains are all classified as low-risk HPV strains.
According to NYU Langone Health, low-risk HPV usually doesn’t cause any long-term health complications. The warts that cause warts — whether they’re genital or cutaneous warts — aren’t the same as the strains that can lead to cancer. However, you can be infected with several different HPV strains at once, including both low and high risk types of HPV.
Causes of HPV warts on hands
According to the Cleveland Clinic, you can get HPV warts from having skin-to-skin contact with another person who has them. These warts develop when the virus enters your body through a tear or cut on your skin, even if the tear is very small and undetectable to the naked eye.
Children can have a higher risk of developing cutaneous warts, since their constant physical activity makes it more likely for them to have small cuts or abrasions, even if they don’t notice them. People with immunosuppression are also more likely to develop HPV warts.
Although the presence of HPV has been detected on inanimate objects, such as clothing, an article published in the French journal Gynécologie Obstétrique & Fertilitéfound that there is no evidence to support that cutaneous HPV can be transmitted by this route.
Symptoms of HPV warts on hands
HPV warts can have different characteristics from one person to the next. According to Harvard Medical School, the symptoms of skin HPV warts include:
- Dome-shaped, raised, or flat warts
- Warts with a rough surface
- Skin-colored, brown, black, beige, or grey warts
- Painless warts
Treatment for HPV hand warts
In many cases, your doctor will be able to diagnose cutaneous HPV after a simple physical examination. However, they may order a biopsy to rule out other possible causes of skin lesions.
Warts can go away on their own if your immune system is able to clear the infection. However, you can’t predict whether this will happen or not. Since HPV warts aren’t cancerous, your doctor could advise against removal if your warts are small and don’t cause any issues. But in some cases, warts can cause aesthetic problems, discomfort, or pain.
According to a study published by the American Association of Family Physicians, the most common and effective methods for wart removal include:
- Topical salicylic acid
- Cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen
- Mumps skin antigen injections
- Photodynamic therapy
- Pulsed dye laser therapy
Some topical salicylic acid preparations are available as over-the-counter treatments for cutaneous HPV.
When using these products, you may need to apply them regularly for a few weeks or months before seeing results. Your doctor could also recommend a wart removal method depending on your personal history, health status, and personal preferences.
None of these methods is completely curative, so you should be aware that warts could come back in the future. But fortunately, modern HPV wart treatments are highly effective if you want to get rid of HPV warts on your hands or other parts of your body.
Check out these additional STDWatch.com articles to learn more about HPV:
- HPV and pregnancy: Everything you need to know
- What causes abnormal Pap smears besides HPV?
- Skin tag vs. HPV: What’s the difference?
- Is HPV herpes? Everything you need to know
- Cutaneous wart-associated HPV types: Prevalence and relation with patient characteristics - sciencedirect.com
- HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS - virus.stanford.edu
- Types of Human Papillomavirus - nyulangone.org
- Warts - my.clevelandclinic.org
- [How did I contract human Papillomavirus (HPV)?] - pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) - health.harvard.edu
- Treatment of Nongenital Cutaneous Warts - aafp.org