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The Difference Between Flat Warts & Common Wart

Health Articles > Warts > Flat Warts vs Common Warts

Flat warts and common warts have both similarities and differences. Both types of warts are contagious, caused by the same virus and more likely to occur in children and young adults. They differ in appearance.


Flat warts are caused by the human papillomavirus of which there are many strains. The strains numbered 3, 10, 28 and 49 are responsible for flat warts.

Common warts are caused by the same virus but different strains. In this case, the numbers 1, 2, 4, 27 and 29 are the culprits.

HPV (the abbreviation for human papilloma virus) is contagious and can be spread with simple skin-to-skin contact (such as from the hands or feet) or contact with a contaminated surface.

Age Group

Here there is a similarity. Both Flat warts and common warts are more likely in children and young adults than in older people. This is because they have less developed immune systems so are not always able to fight off the virus plus there is more close contact with others of the same age.

Signs and Symptoms

Flat warts are smooth flat topped warts the size of a pin head. They tend to grow in large numbers - 20 to 100 at any one time.

Like flat warts, common warts do not usually cause any pain or discomfort. Common warts start off small and become rough, round or irregular as they grow to anything from 2 to 10 mm in diameter. They can grow into clusters of common warts resembling a small cauliflower. They are often roughly textured and can be from light gray to gray/black or yellow to brown in color.


Flat warts can appear anywhere on the body, but in children they are most common on the face and along scratch marks. They can occur in their hundreds. Even though they are so small, they can still cause children to become embarrassed and self conscious about their presence. In adults they are often found in the beard area in men and on the legs and armpits in women because of irritation and spreading from shaving. Shaving or scratching can spread flat warts through the blood stream.

Common warts usually grow on the fingers, around the nails and on the backs of the hands. They are more common where skin has been broken, for example where fingernails are bitten or hangnails picked. Other areas are those subjected to trauma particularly in children such as when they injure themselves on the elbows, knees or face.


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