Warts are growths that appear on your skin as a result of a virus. They’re common and often harmless. Most people will have .
But do warts itch? Although not all warts itch, it’s completely normal to have itchy warts. They usually aren’t a sign of anything more serious than dry, irritated skin around the affected area.
Warts on your skin are almost always caused by exposure to a form of human papillomavirus (HPV). This can happen in lots of different ways, including skin-to-skin contact with someone who has warts and using a group shower or locker room.
When the virus enters the skin, often through an existing cut, blister, or other opening, HPV causes uncontrolled cellular growth that results in rough, grainy bumps on the skin’s surface.
It’s common for these growths — covered in flaky, dry skin — to itch.
Types of warts
HPV can affect each part of the body differently. Though the general cause and symptoms of warts are often the same, there are several different kinds of warts to be aware of depending on where they are on your body.
- Common warts. Warts that appear on your hands, fingers, and toes are often called common warts. They can be gray, white, tan, or flesh-colored.
- Flat warts. Flat warts are most likely to show up on your face, thigh, or arms. They’re typically smaller than common warts and have a flat top as opposed to a rounded top.
- Genital warts. While the majority of warts are mostly harmless, warts in your genital area can raise your risk for certain types of cancer. See a doctor if you think you have genital warts.
- Plantar warts.Warts on the bottom of your feet, or plantar warts, grow into the skin and form a small, painful hole in the sole of your foot. While not necessarily any more dangerous than a common wart, plantar warts can be extremely painful.
- Filiform warts. These are small, skin-tag like warts that appear around your mouth, nose, or chin. They’re often flesh-colored in appearance.
- Periungual warts. Periungual warts, which can be extremely painful, appear under your toenails and fingernails.
There are numerous skin conditions and viruses that can result in raised bumps on the skin.
Though they all have different causes and some unique symptoms, it can be difficult to tell one kind of raised bump from another. An itchy bump on your skin could be a wart, or it could be something else entirely, including:
- Acne. Pimples, formed when pores become clogged with dirt or bacteria, don’t usually itch. However, they can sometimes be confused with warts based on their appearance.
- Cold sore. Cold sores are outbreaks of the herpes simplex virus, usually around the mouth. Where warts can last for a year or more, a cold sore should start to heal within a week or two.
- Skin tag. These are small, painless growths on your body that can be easily confused with warts. However, they usually appear in places that warts don’t, like your eyelids and armpits.
- Corn. Similar to calluses, corns are areas of hardened skin that has been worn down by constant pressure and friction. Corns are most common on the toes and soles of feet.
- Mole. Moles can sometimes be harmful, but most are benign. Like warts, they are round growths on the skin, but they’re usually much darker and can be completely flat.
There are many potential explanations for the itchy bump on your skin. If the problem persists or you suspect it may not be a wart, you should see your doctor or dermatologist.
Warts often go away on their own within a year or two with little treatment. If you don’t want to wait that long, there are some simple treatments your doctor may prescribe.
Again, most warts are relatively harmless and will eventually fade away on their own over a long period of time. If the wart itches while it’s healing, there are plenty of options for some quick relief:
- Oatmeal bath. Oatmeal has a tremendous ability to soothe extremely itchy and irritated skin. Just mix unflavored colloidal oatmeal — oatmeal that is very finely ground — with warm water to create a paste and apply it to your wart for itch relief.
- Mild moisturizer. Your itchy wart is likely dried out, irritated, and in need of some basic skin care. Keep the area clean, dry, and soothed with a mild, fragrance-free moisturizer.
- Over-the-counter medication. Creams and gels from containing a small amount of the anesthetic numbing agent pramoxine can help soothe itchy warts and skin. These can be found in drug stores. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone anti-itch creams are also widely available. Apply one of these directly to the wart to combat itchiness.
To treat the wart itself and promote healing, consider a product that contains salicylic acid. Use this kind of cream or gel every day to methodically strip away the layers of the wart, causing it to get smaller and disappear over time.
Duct tape method
You can imitate the layer-stripping effect of salicylic acid by covering the wart with duct tape for a few days, then pulling it away. You’ll have to repeat this process many times to see results.
If your warts don’t seem to be healing on their own or are unbearably itchy, consider having them looked at by a doctor. Your doctor may offer you treatment options beyond at-home and over-the-counter remedies.
Prescription-strength salicylic acid
A dermatologist might prescribe a product with a much stronger percentage of salicylic acid for you to apply to severe warts. This will help strip them away much more quickly.
A dermatologist may opt to remove your wart using cryotherapy, a treatment that freezes the wart to destroy it on a cellular level. After freezing, the doctor manually scrapes away the dead layers of the wart and then repeats the freezing/scraping process until your wart is gone.
Surgery or laser treatment
For severe warts that don’t respond to other forms of treatment, your doctor may recommend having them removed surgically or burned off through laser treatment.
Because warts are caused by a virus, they spread easily between people and even to other parts of your own body. Practice these basic prevention tips to help your itchy wart heal faster, or to avoid warts in the future:
- Wash your hands several times per day with a mild soap, especially after contact with other people or bathrooms.
- Bandage or cover any open wounds, sores, or blisters to avoid giving the HPV virus an entry point.
- Don’t pick at existing warts, as this can cause them to spread further.
- Always cover your feet with water shoes or flip-flops when in a gym or locker room shower.
The hallmark signs of a wart are their round, raised appearance, grainy surface, and slow healing time. Some itching or discomfort from a wart is normal. If it’s causing you intense pain or a deeply uncomfortable itch, it’s possible that your wart could be a different kind of skin condition altogether, in which case you should see your doctor.
If you are indeed dealing with a wart, it should heal if you keep it clean, prevent it from spreading, and treat the itch with some basic-over-the-counter or home remedies.