How You Get Warts And How To Remove Them

by Dr Wan Chee Kwang
September 5, 2023

Warts can be both unsightly and uncomfortable leading patients to seek wart removal. They often appear on the hands, feet, and other parts of the body, causing distress to those affected. While warts are common and usually harmless, they can be bothersome and may warrant removal. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how warts are transmitted, risk factors, preventive measures, and effective wart removal treatments available in Singapore.

How You Get Warts

Warts are noncancerous skin growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They develop when HPV enters a cut or break in the skin and causes an infection. There are more than 100 different strains of HPV that can cause warts. Not everyone who comes into contact with HPV develops warts. Each person’s immune system responds to the HPV virus differently.

In Singapore, warts are particularly common among young adults and children. Warts can spread from person to person through skin-to-skin contact or by coming into contact with contaminated objects, such as towels, shoes, or shower floors.

how hpv causes warts
How HPV infection causes warts

Common Modes of Wart Transmission

Warts are highly contagious, and understanding how they spread is crucial to preventing their occurrence. Here are some common modes of wart transmission:

  • Direct Skin-to-Skin Contact: One of the most common ways warts spread is through direct skin-to-skin contact. This often happens when people shake hands, hold hands, or engage in other activities that involve close contact. It's particularly easy for children, who often have skin-to-skin contact during play.
  • Contaminated Surfaces: Warts can also be contracted by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, such as gym equipment, swimming pool decks, or public showers. The virus can thrive in moist environments, making these areas potential breeding grounds.
  • Autoinoculation: Autoinoculation occurs when you touch an existing wart and then touch another part of your body. This can cause the virus to spread to new areas of your skin, leading to the development of multiple warts.

Understanding Risk Factors

Not everyone exposed to the HPV virus will develop warts. Several risk factors can increase your likelihood of getting warts:

  • Weakened Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with autoimmune diseases or those undergoing immunosuppressive therapies, are more susceptible to developing warts.
  • Age: Children and young adults are more prone to warts, as their immune systems are still developing and may not be as effective at fighting off the virus.
  • Damaged Skin: Warts often occur in areas where the skin has been cut, scraped, or otherwise damaged. The virus can enter the body through these openings in the skin.
  • Gender: Certain types of warts, such as genital warts, are more common in specific genders due to differences in genital anatomy.

Preventive Measures

While it's challenging to eliminate the risk of contracting warts completely, there are several preventive measures you can take:

  • Practice Good Hygiene: Frequent handwashing with soap and water can reduce the risk of contracting warts from contaminated surfaces. Additionally, avoid sharing personal items like towels and razors.
  • Protect Cuts and Scrapes: Covering cuts and scrapes with a clean bandage can prevent the virus from entering your body through damaged skin.
  • Avoid Direct Contact: Limit skin-to-skin contact with individuals with visible warts, especially if you have open wounds or cuts.
  • Boost Your Immune System: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can help strengthen your immune system, reducing your vulnerability to warts.

Effective Wart Removal Treatments

When warts do appear, you may be eager to get rid of them. Several effective wart removal treatments are available, both over-the-counter and through medical professionals. Here are some options:

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Treatments

Salicylic acid is a common OTC treatment for warts. It works by softening the skin cells of the wart, allowing them to be easily removed. These products are available as liquids, gels, pads, and plasters.

patient applying wart removal cream on toe wart
Wart removal creams can cause irritation and damage to the surrounding healthy skin

Prescription Medications

  • Topical Wart Removal Medications: These are creams that work by targeting the virus that causes warts and/or by causing the skin cells around the wart to die and peel off. There are various types of creams such as acids, immune system modulators, vitamin A derivatives, acids, and others. It may take weeks or even months for topical medications to effectively remove warts. In some cases, these medications may not even work, particularly for larger or long-standing warts.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy involves injecting a substance into the wart that triggers the immune system to attack the virus. This is typically performed by a dermatologist.

Medical Procedures

  • Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy administered by a healthcare professional involves the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart. While cryotherapy may effectively remove small warts, it can also be painful, require multiple sessions, and cause scarring.
  • Electrosurgery: Electrosurgery involves using an electrical current to burn off the wart tissue. Compared to more advanced wart removal methods, it tends to cause more collateral damage.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation: Radiofrequency wart removal involves the use of a special machine that generates radiofrequency waves. Unlike electrosurgery where heat is used to destroy the wart tissue, radiofrequency waves are of a much higher frequency and generate more ablation and less heat, allowing better control and visibility.
  • Laser Treatment: Ablative and vascular lasers can be used for wart removal treatments.
    • Ablative laser wart removal can effectively eliminate warts in 1-2 sessions, but deep-seated warts may lead to scarring. More advanced ablative lasers like ultrapulse CO2 offer a high degree of control over tissue damage. These lasers precisely vaporize only the infected cells, reducing the risk of complications such as scarring or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
    • Vascular lasers target the blood vessels feeding the wart, causing it to shrink and eventually fall off. While having a lower risk of scarring, they may require multiple sessions and may not be as effective for deeply rooted warts.
    • Combination treatments using multiple lasers can overcome the limitations of each modality, producing lower recurrence and scarring risks, making them particularly suitable for complicated warts or cosmetically sensitive areas such as the face. This option is effective for larger or stubborn warts.
  • Wart Removal Injections: These injections work by either damaging the wart tissue or stimulating the body’s immune system to fight off the wart. They can be particularly useful for treating large, multiple or complicated warts that have not responded to or are unsuitable for other treatments.


Warts can be a nuisance, but understanding how they spread and taking preventive measures can reduce your risk of contracting them. Whichever method you opt for, managing and removing warts is achievable, and your skin can once again be clear and healthy. If you do find yourself with a wart, rest assured that 1Aesthetics offers a range of effective wart removal treatments. Contact us today to get tailored advice for your specific wart situation.


  1. El Sharkawy, D. A., Nada, H. R., & Radman Al-Kubati, S. (2023). Comparative Study Among CO 2 Laser, Intralesional Vitamin D3, and Combined Intralesional Vitamin D3 and CO 2 Laser in Treatment of Palmoplantar Warts. Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.]49(8), 771–776.
  2. Zorman, A., & Koron, N. (2021). Wart removal without anesthesia using long-pulse 1064-nm Nd:YAG laser. Journal of cosmetic dermatology20(2), 506–512.
  3. Gutierrez, P., Garza, J., Gandhi, K., Voice, A., Stout, E., & Ventolini, G. (2020). Carbon dioxide (CO2) laser ablation treatment of a peri-urethral genital wart: A case report. Case reports in women's health27, e00226.

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