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Cutaneous warts (common, plantar, and flat warts)

Beth G Goldstein, MD
Adam O Goldstein, MD, MPH
Rachael Morris-Jones, FRCP, PhD, PCME
Section Editors
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Moise L Levy, MD
Ted Rosen, MD
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) infect epithelial tissues of skin and mucous membranes. The most common clinical manifestations of HPV infection are warts (verrucae). There are over 150 distinct HPV subtypes; some tend to infect specific body sites. HPV type 1 commonly infects the soles of the feet and produces plantar warts, while HPV types 6 and 11 infect the anogenital area and cause anogenital warts. (See "Condylomata acuminata (anogenital warts) in adults: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical features, and diagnosis".)

The clinical findings and management of cutaneous warts (including common, plantar, and flat warts) will be reviewed here. Anogenital warts (condylomata acuminata) are reviewed separately. (See "Condylomata acuminata (anogenital warts) in children" and "Condylomata acuminata (anogenital warts) in adults: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical features, and diagnosis" and "Condylomata acuminata (anogenital warts): Management of external condylomata acuminata in men" and "Treatment of vulvar and vaginal warts".)


Cutaneous warts occur most commonly in children and young adults and are more common among certain occupations, such as handlers of meat, poultry, and fish [1]. Predisposing conditions for extensive or recalcitrant involvement include atopic dermatitis and conditions associated with decreased cell-mediated immunity (eg, acquired immune deficiency syndrome [AIDS], organ transplantation) [2,3].

Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) occurs by direct skin contact, with maceration or sites of trauma predisposing patients to inoculation. Latent HPV infection also may occur in normal skin. The reservoir for HPV appears to be individuals with clinical or subclinical infection. Transmission via inanimate objects has been proposed but has not been proven. The incubation period is approximately two to six months.

Spontaneous remission of warts occurs in two-thirds of children within two years; spontaneous resolution in adults tends to be slower and may take up to several years or longer [4]. Warts in patients with intact cellular immunity are the most likely to regress without therapy [5,6]. Recurrence is common.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 26, 2017.
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