Subungual Warts: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, And Prevention Tips

subungual wart

Warts are a common skin condition caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). They can appear anywhere on the body. For one, genital warts are a common form of sexually transmitted infection.

But one type of wart, a subungual wart, is found exclusively on the hands and feet. Subungual warts can be painful and difficult to treat, but several treatments are available. Many people are at risk of developing them due to their everyday activities.

This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention tips for subungual warts. It will also look at how you can reduce your risk of developing them in the first place. By understanding more about these common skin growths, you’ll be better equipped to protect yourself from them in the future.

What Are Subungual Warts?

Subungual Warts

Subungual warts are a type of wart under the fingernail or toenail. They’re small, fleshy growths caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus enters the skin through a break in the nail and then takes hold. This can cause the wart to grow and spread. When pressure is applied to the nail bed, these warts sometimes cause pain and discomfort. They can also be unsightly if they’re visible above the nail.

Subungual warts can range in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. They can also vary in color from the same hue as the skin to yellow or brown. But they’re typically firm and dome-shaped. This allows them to be easily distinguished from other nail abnormalities like periungual warts.

Periungual Warts

Periungual warts are warts that grow around the edges of the nails. These are also caused by HPV, and they’re usually painless. Compared to subungual warts, periungual warts are more likely to spread and cause soft tissue infection if left untreated. But they don’t usually penetrate beneath the nail. The treatment of periungual warts is slightly different from that of subungual warts, so it’s essential to differentiate between them.

Plantar Warts

Plantar Warts

Other cutaneous warts, like plantar warts, grow on the soles of your feet. Different strains of HPV cause these, so they’re not as likely to spread to other parts of the body. But they can cause pain and discomfort when walking or standing for long periods of time. Some plantar warts also have a hyperkeratotic appearance, meaning they’re covered in hardened skin.

Subungual Hematoma

Another condition that people confuse subungual warts with is a subungual hematoma. This is a collection of blood beneath the nail caused by trauma. It can be painful, and discoloration may occur, but it’s unrelated to HPV. Because of this, it’s essential to differentiate between a subungual hematoma and a subungual wart.

Subungual Warts Causes

Certain types of HPV cause subungual warts. An HPV infection can spread through direct contact with someone who already has the virus or by coming into contact with something contaminated, such as a towel or a surface.

When the virus enters your skin through a crack in the nail, it can cause a subungual wart to form. This is especially likely if your hands and feet are often exposed to water or other irritants, such as chemicals in cleaning products. Subungual warts are also more common among people who bite their nails or pick at their cuticles because this can easily break the skin.

Some people also have a higher risk of developing subungual warts due to medical conditions like certain types of eczema. This is because their skin is more prone to cracking and becoming infected. Many people with HIV and AIDS also have a higher risk of developing subungual warts due to their weakened immune systems.

Subungual Warts Symptoms

The symptoms of subungual warts will depend on the size and severity of the infection. But some of the most common include:

  • Pain or discomfort when pressure is applied to the area
  • Discoloration of the nail, which can range from yellow or brown to gray or black
  • Roughness and/or lumpiness around or beneath the nail
  • A streak of white, yellow, or brown on the nail
  • Bleeding around the edges of the nail
  • Nail distortion and/or deformity

It’s important to note that subungual warts can look very similar to other nail abnormalities. If you’re experiencing any symptoms described above, talk to a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Subungual Warts Treatments

Wart treatments will also depend on the size and severity of the infection. There are some home remedies for getting rid of warts, but if they’re large or painful, you may need medical treatment. Some of the most common ways to treat warts include the following:

1. Topical treatments

topical treatment

Topical treatments like salicylic acid can treat subungual warts. Warts usually respond well to this type of treatment, although it can take several weeks or even months of daily application to fully heal. But it’s essential to be careful when using salicylic acid, as it can cause skin irritation and bleeding if misused.

Your doctor may also recommend cantharidin or 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) ointments applied directly to the wart. This type of treatment can be painful and may cause blisters or skin discoloration, but it can effectively remove a wart.

2. Oral medications

Your doctor may also prescribe oral medications to treat the wart. These may include cimetidine, an antihistamine that can help reduce the growth of warts; podophyllin, a topical medicine that can help stop the virus from spreading; or oral retinoids, which can help kill the virus.

3. Laser therapy

Laser treatment is a newer wart treatment option. It involves using a laser beam to target and destroy the wart. In some studies, pulsed dye laser therapy is more effective than other treatments. But it can also be expensive and painful, and it may take multiple treatments to remove the wart completely.

This treatment method is generally only recommended for large or recurrent subungual viral warts. Some people also prefer laser treatment instead of topical treatments because it’s less likely to cause skin irritation. And it may be more effective for certain types of warts.

4. Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy to remove wart
Not to be used for advertising or in a defamatory context
Gloved hands use cryotherapy equipment to remove viral warts from the fingers of a patient. Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen (applied using a cryotherapy probe) to kill and freeze the wart caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Cryotherapy is another popular treatment for warts. It involves freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen, which causes it to fall off in several days or weeks. This treatment is generally painless, although some people may experience mild discomfort. Some people also find it effective for larger or more resistant warts.

5. Immunotherapy

Because HPV weakens the immune system, some doctors may recommend immunotherapy for subungual warts. This involves taking medications or injections to boost the body’s natural defenses against the virus.

Immunotherapy can be successful in some cases, but it’s not always effective. Because of this, you must talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before deciding if this treatment is proper for you. If you proceed with immunotherapy, follow your doctor’s instructions closely.

6. Photodynamic therapy

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is another treatment option for subungual warts. It involves applying a photosensitizing compound to the wart and exposing the area to a light source. This can help destroy the wart tissue, but it may take several treatments before it is completely gone.

7. Surgery

Compared to periungual warts treatment methods, subungual warts may require more invasive treatments. When other options fail, surgery may be recommended to remove the wart. This may include cutting away the wart or using lasers to burn it off. This can be a successful treatment, but it will usually cause scarring or permanent deformities on the affected area.

When to Seek Treatment

Subungual warts can sometimes go away on their own, but seeking medical advice is essential if your symptoms persist for over a few weeks. If your wart is causing pain or discomfort, it’s essential to seek medical treatment as soon as possible to avoid complications.

You should also seek treatment if you experience any signs of infection, such as increased redness and swelling. Infections can be difficult to treat and may sometimes require antibiotics or hospitalization. Some people also experience a reaction to treatments like cryotherapy or topical medications, so it’s important to tell your doctor about any allergies you may have.

Subungual Warts Prevention Tips

The best way to prevent subungual warts is to take steps to protect your hands and feet from HPV infection. Many of these steps are simple and easy to do in your everyday life.

1. Protect your hands and feet

Whenever you’re in contact with surfaces that may be contaminated, such as gym equipment or public pools, cover your hands and feet with shoes or gloves. This can help keep the virus from entering your skin through cuts or abrasions.

2. Keep your nails trimmed and clean

Trimming your fingernails and toenails regularly will help keep them from becoming too long and susceptible to infection. And washing your hands and feet regularly with soap and water can help keep them clean and free from viruses. Use a clean and sanitized tool if you’re getting a pedicure or manicure.

3. Avoid biting your nails

Biting your nails can increase your risk of developing subungual warts. The virus can enter your body through broken skin, so keeping your nails short and clean is essential.

4. Wear protective gear

If you’re engaging in activities that may involve contact with surfaces that may be contaminated, such as gardening or construction work, wear gloves and shoes to protect your hands and feet.

5. Avoid sharing tools

When sharing tools like nail clippers, tweezers, or scissors with someone else, disinfect them between uses. This will help prevent the spread of infection. If you must share, use single-use disposable tools. You should also avoid touching warts or skin lesions on someone else.

6. Quit smoking

Smoking is a risk factor for developing subungual warts, so if you’re a smoker, quitting can help reduce your risk. Because of this, it’s important to talk to your doctor about ways you can quit. It will also have many other positive health benefits, so there’s no better time to start.

7. Talk to your doctor

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of subungual warts, talk to a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. They may be able to provide you with more personalized prevention tips, as well.


1) Which is more painful: Subungual or Periungual Warts?

Subungual and periungual warts can both be painful, depending on the size and severity. But subungual warts can be more painful because they develop beneath the nail. Even light pressure applied to the area may cause pain and discomfort.

2) How do you treat Subungual Nails?

If you have subungual nails, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter treatments or prescription medications, including topical ointments, oral medications, and laser therapy. Talk to your doctor for the best treatment plan for you.

3) Is Hydrogen Peroxide good for Subungual Hematoma?

Hydrogen peroxide is not recommended for use on subungual hematoma. It can cause skin irritation and damage the nail bed if used incorrectly. But it can treat subungual warts. So it’s important to follow the instructions of your doctor or pharmacist.

4) What helps Subungual Hematomas heal faster?

Subungual hematomas can take several weeks to heal. Keep the area clean and dry and avoid trauma to the nail. Your doctor may also recommend antibiotics or antifungal creams. If a blood clot persists, they may need to surgically drain the area.

5) How long does it take for Subungual Warts to go away?

Subungual warts can take weeks or months to go away with treatment. Topical treatments may be effective within a few weeks, while laser therapy can take longer. It’s essential to stay patient and follow the instructions of your doctor. If symptoms persist, ask your doctor for a more aggressive treatment plan.

6) Can Subungual Warts spread to other parts of the body?

If left untreated, subungual warts can spread to other body parts. This is why it’s important to talk to a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. They can help you find the best way to prevent the spread of infection.

Bottom Line

Subungual warts are a common condition caused by HPV and can be treated with topical ointments, oral medications, laser therapy, or surgery. It’s important to differentiate between subungual warts and other abnormalities, like periungual warts, in order to receive the correct diagnosis and treatment.

To prevent the spread of infection, practice good hygiene, wear gloves and shoes when in contact with contaminated surfaces, and avoid biting your nails or picking at your cuticles. If you’re experiencing symptoms of subungual warts, talk to a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. With proper care, subungual warts can be effectively treated and prevented.

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