Warts are spread directly from person to person or indirectly by contact with an infected surface or object. Genital warts can be transferred during unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person. The HPV virus that causes warts can live on skin without causing infection, but at this stage it still can be passed to another person.
If the HPV virus is able to enter the body – for example via a small scratch in the skin – it can infect the skin cells beneath the surface causing them to grow rapidly to form a wart. It can take several months before wart is visible.
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For reasons that are still unclear, some individuals are more resistant to infection than others and do not develop a wart even after coming into contact with the HPV virus. In addition, warts are less common in older people (probably as a result of increased immunity to the virus developed over time).
Five common causes of warts and associated risk factors:
- Touching a wart (especially newer warts as these tend to be more infectious) and then touching another part of the body.
- Sharing a towel, razor or other personal item with someone who is infected
- Walking barefoot on damp surfaces (the HPV virus thrives in moist environments)
- You are more likely to develop an infection if your skin is broken (for example as a result of a scratch, peeling skin, cut or abrasion).
- You are more at risk if you have an impaired immune system.
This list of causes leads us nicely in what you can do to prevent contact with HPV.
9 Ways To Prevent Warts
- Don’t touch warts on yourself or others
- Don’t share personal items (e.g. socks, shoes, razors, towels) with anyone who has warts. In fact, it’s probably also best not to share these items with other people even if they have no visible warts as they may still be carrying the virus.
- Don’t walk around barefoot in warm, moist surfaces such as at the gym, public changing rooms, swimming pools or shower rooms. Wear shower shoes, rubber thongs or neoprene foot slippers in these environments.
- Try to keep your feet dry and free of perspiration. Wear socks made from natural, well-ventilated materials that wick away moistener.
- Change out of sweaty exercise shoes and socks quickly.
- Don’t damage the skin on your feet by walking on rough surfaces as warts gown more easily if there are abrasions. It is thought that a surface injury weakens the local immunity of the skin to infection.
- Don’t bite your nails or pick at the skin surrounding them.
- Keep warts covered up with a bandage or tape.
- Take care when shaving as flat warts that grow in the beard area can be spread by shaving.