Yes. There are numerous strains of HPV. Some cause warts on the genitals, whereas others can cause warts on different parts of the body, in particular the hands and feet. Many strains do not cause warts at all.
On this page, we’ll discuss:
- which strains of HPV cause warts
- which parts of the body warts can appear on
- and how to prevent warts and verrucas
The virus that causes genital warts is known as the human papillomavirus, or HPV. There are over a hundred differents strains of the virus but only some of them cause wart symptoms.
Each strain of HPV is given a number to identify it. Genital warts tend to come from strains 6 and 11.
Most humans are susceptible to HPV infections, and it’s thought that most people (around 80 percent, according to Cancer Research UK) will contract some form of HPV during their lives. Many people carry the virus without developing symptoms or becoming aware of the infection. In some cases the body’s immune system is able to expel the virus; so the carrier might never realise that they have had it.
Warts can appear on, around, or sometimes even inside the genitals and anus. But is thought that half of HPV strains can cause warts or verrucas on the hands and feet.
When warts occur on the hands, they often appear on the fingers or close to the fingernails. The growths can be small, raised, flat, firm and rough. They sometimes form in groups and are described as having a cauliflower look. Most warts are painless and will clear up in their own time.
If you have warts on your hands you cannot transfer them to your genitals. However, it does not make you immune to the genital strains. This means that it is still possible to contract the genital strain of the virus and go on to develop warts in that area too.
Plantar warts, also known as verrucas, appear on the soles of the feet. Verrucas are usually round in shape with a black centre and cause hard skin to form around the site of infection. Verrucas can resolve on their own, though this may take several months or even years.
The location of verrucas can sometimes make them painful so that they require treatment. Verrucas can be treated with a variety of methods including sprays, creams and plasters often obtained from a pharmacy. Some GPs may offer a freezing service for verrucas.
Warts and verrucas can be stubborn and take time to resolve. Therefore, it is best wherever possible to try and avoid contracting the virus in the first place.
Read more on how to prevent genital warts.
There are steps you can take to minimise your risk of contracting warts or verrucas, such as:
- wearing flip flops or shower shoes when attending any communal pools or bathing areas
- washing your hands if you have been in contact with someone with warts
- keeping your hands and feet clean and dry
- and avoiding sharing towels, socks or personal grooming equipment.
If you have already contracted HPV and have active warts or verrucas, in addition to the above, you should also do the following:
- wash your hands after touching or treating your warts or verrucas
- use a plaster to cover warts or verrucas if attending swimming baths
- avoid walking in public areas with bare feet
- wear clean socks daily if you have verrucas
- and avoid scratching or picking your warts or verrucas.
Not all lumps and bumps located on the genitals are actual warts. Therefore if you develop wart-like symptoms for the first time, you should speak to your doctor or visit a GUM clinic.
You can read more information on our page on what genital warts look like.