Causes and Risk Factors of Warts

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Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and can occur anywhere on your skin. While HPV is most well-known as a sexually transmitted infection, there are 100 types of HPV, not all of which are transmitted sexually.

HPV can be passed through any infected skin-to-skin contact or by touching a surface that carries the virus. Warts often appear on hands and feet because your hands and feet frequently contain minor skin irritations where the virus can penetrate.

This article explains what commonly causes warts, the risk factors for developing warts, and ways to prevent them.

A wart on a child's finger

tomczykbartek / Getty Images

W-arts are categorized by where they develop on the body. They include common warts, foot warts (also called plantar warts), flat warts, and filiform warts. All are caused by HPV.

Common Causes of Warts

Warts are caused by HPV. While anyone can develop warts, they most commonly affect children and teens, people who bite their nails, and people with a weakened immune system. The most common ways of contracting the virus that causes warts include:

  • Touching another person who is infected with the HPV virus (especially touching their wart)
  • Touching a surface contaminated with the virus (public shower, pool floors, etc.)
  • Sharing personal hygiene items (towels, nail clippers, and razors)

Cuts or dry, cracked skin increases the likelihood of HPV getting into your body and causing warts.

Are Warts Caused by Stress?

Stress does not directly cause warts; HPV does. However, chronic stress can lead to your immune system not functioning optimally. So, in that way, stress can contribute to your developing warts when exposed to HPV.


Some people seem more susceptible to developing warts. Since a viral infection causes warts, they are not inherited, but your genes may make HPV infection more likely.

Researchers believe certain immune response genes may play a role in HPV infection. A study evaluated the genetic nature of HPV-induced warts and found that the dysregulation of several gene expression (a disruption in how information encoded in a gene alters gene function) may play a critical role in wart formation.

Lifestyle Risk Factors

While anyone can develop warts, certain behaviors may make developing them more likely. These factors include:

  • Being young (kids and teens are most likely to develop warts)
  • Sharing personal hygiene items
  • Walking barefoot in public showers and pools
  • Fingernail biting
  • Being immunocompromised

In addition, handling meat can also be a risk factor for contracting HPV. Warts contracted this way are referred to as butcher's warts.


To avoid getting warts, experts recommend the following:

  • Avoiding touching someone else's wart
  • Not sharing personal care items
  • Keeping cuts and scrapes covered
  • Keeping skin moisturized
  • Wearing flip-flops in gyms, locker rooms, and pools
  • Getting vaccinated for HPV
  • Treating hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)

Warts usually resolve on their own. But you can take some steps to help your wart heal more quickly.

For example, keep your wart covered to prevent it from spreading to other parts of your body or other people. Wash your hands after touching the wart, and avoid shaving over it. Speak to a healthcare provider on ways to treat the wart.


Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which enters the body through skin-to-skin contact or touching an infected surface. Specific genes may make some people more susceptible to developing warts. Further risk factors include nail-biting, sharing personal hygiene items, walking barefoot in public showers and pools, and being immunocompromised.

A Word From Verywell

Since warts often appear on exposed skin, like hands and feet, some people feel embarrassed about them. However, warts are nothing to be ashamed of—they are not a hygiene problem, nor are they a cause for concern. The virus that causes warts is highly contagious, so it is a good idea to keep your wart covered to prevent infecting other parts of your body or other people.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.