Flat Warts Overview

Flat warts are very common in children as well as men. Women are not as prone as kids and adult men but they too can develop flat warts. An otherwise harmless condition, flat warts are certainly not desirable because they can change one’s appearance if the warts develop on the face. Flat warts are the least troublesome of all the conditions in the wart family and they may often subside by themselves.

Flat warts are usually harmless and they can get cured on their own. However, flat warts are contagious. Hence, if a kid in the family has got it then chances are high that other kids in the family or at school as well as the adults may develop the warts in time to come. Also, flat warts develop many in number at the same place which make them obvious and less pleasant to look at. These are the two primary reasons why seeking treatment for flat warts is considered to be necessary.

Flat warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Among the many kinds of human papillomavirus, the ones that cause flat warts are type 3, 10, 28 and 49. These types of HPV are directly transmitted from one carrier to another.

Symptoms of Flat Warts

Flat warts have several unique characteristics, including:

  • They usually appear on the face, legs, or the back of hands.
  • Flat warts are more common in children than in adults.
  • Flat warts are yellow, brown, or pink.
  • They are small and may be round or oval-shaped.
  • Typically, they are about the size of the head of a pin.

Furthermore, flat warts commonly surround scratches on a person’s skin. For example, men and women may discover them around cuts on the face or legs from shaving.

Living with Flat Warts

It is possible that flat warts will go away on their own without treatment; however, the best way to ensure flat warts are removed is to treat them. Like all types of warts, flat warts may return after removal and it’s possible they can spread to other parts of the body. If a flat wart begins to grow larger, bleed, or change colors, it is best to consult a licensed medical professional.

Causes of Flat Warts

The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes all types of warts. It has more than 100 different strains, and strains 3, 10, 28, and 49 can cause flat warts. These strains are benign, while other strains of HPV, such as those that affect the genitals, may increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.

A person is more likely to develop warts if they:

  • have skin-to-skin contact with a person who has warts
  • touch an object that has come into contact with a wart
  • have cuts or scrapes
  • practice poor hygiene
  • have a weakened immune system, due to an illness or treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other medications

Diagnosis of Flat Warts

If you have bumps on your skin and don’t know what they are, you may want to see your doctor. Usually a doctor can diagnose flat warts by their appearance. In some cases, your doctor may not be able to diagnose your warts by appearance alone. If this is the case, your doctor may want to do a biopsy of the spots or refer you to a dermatologist. You should also see a doctor if the flat warts grow larger, change color, or bleed.

Prevention of Flat Warts

Because HPV is highly contagious, people with warts should take steps to avoid spreading the virus. They can do this by:

  • refraining from rubbing, scratching, or picking at warts
  • washing their hands after touching warts, even to apply a cream
  • not sharing towels or other items that touch the skin
  • keeping the skin clean and dry
  • cleaning toys properly

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • How can I be sure I have flat warts?
  • What tests do I need to take?
  • What are the most likely causes of flat warts?
  • What are my treatment options and which ones do you recommend?
  • How long do I need the treatment for?
  • What do I need to do to avoid passing it on if I am contagious?
  • Will my warts recur post treatment?

Risk by Age Group


Low Risk

High Risk


How Common are Flat Warts?

Flat warts are very common with more than 3 million cases per year in the United States.

  • Treatment can help but the virus that causes warts can’t be cured
  • Usually self-diagnosable
  • Lab tests or imaging rarely required
  • Spreads easily

Flat Warts Treatment

Flat warts usually do not require treatment and tend to disappear on their own. An estimated 23 percent of warts will disappear within 2 months, and up to 78 percent will disappear within 2 years. Some people want to get rid of them sooner, and there are many useful treatments. Over-the-counter treatments are available and a person can buy them online.

Removal methods include:

  • excision, which involves cutting or scraping away the wart with a scalpel
  • burning, where the wart is removed using a laser
  • cryotherapy, which involves freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen until it falls off
  • applying cantharidin, a chemical that causes a blister to form under the wart and lift it from the skin

If the flat warts are on a person’s face, hands, or another sensitive area, gentler treatments may be used to avoid scarring. The type of wart, a person’s overall health and the size of the affected area can affect how long it takes for the lesions to disappear.

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