Many people are curious as to what causes warts since they are one of the more common medical issues encountered in daily life, and if there is any difference in the underlying factors behind different types of warts. Despite the wide variety of warts which can affect people, they share some common factors: they all have the same viral origin, they can affect people of all ages (but are most common in young adults ages 12-16), and up to 30% of warts tend to disappear without medical treatment.
Human Papillomavirus and Warts
Warts are caused by different strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV. This virus contains DNA which allows it to replicate inside of human tissue. Warts are contagious by direct contact, but require a point of entry into the body past the skin, which is why it is possible to live with a person who has warts and not necessarily contract them. This virus requires a moist environment, such as a shower or locker room, to survive briefly outside the human body. When these surfaces or another person is touched by an individual’s wart, some of the viruses are spread to the contacted area, and when they come into contact with a body part where the virus can get past the skin, such as the mouth, genitals, or a recent injury, the virus is spread. After this has occurred, the virus requires time to replicate before it is visible as a wart; generally, a period of 1-8 months passes before a wart becomes noticeable. It is also possible to carry HPV without visibly manifesting warts, as in some cases of men who have contracted HPV through sexual contact.
Different Types of Warts
Although warts may differ in how they look, they are actually all caused by HPV. The differences in appearance and nomenclature of warts has to do with where they appear on the body, and by which strain of HPV is causing the wart. There are over 100 different types of HPV, of which about 70% can cause so-called “common” warts, and the remaining 30% can lead to genital warts, although, as stated earlier, many of these strains are taken care of by the body’s immune system before they are even detected, or before medical treatment is needed.
“Warts (Common Warts) Causes, Types, Removal and Treatment on MedicineNet.com.” MedicineNet – Health and Medical Information Produced by Doctors. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2010. http://www.medicinenet.com/warts_common_warts/article.htm.