1 December 2023
Warts and verrucas are skin conditions that can appear anywhere on the body but are usually found on the soles of the feet. A verruca tends to grow slowly and usually doesn’t cause any discomfort.
In many cases, it doesn’t need to be treated unless it’s causing problems – e.g., if it is causing pain when wearing shoes or if the verucca has spread in a large number of places around the foot.
The main cause of verrucas is the human papilloma virus (HPV). The HPV virus is able to penetrate the skin and develop on the top layer where several cells grow together, forming a hard surface – this is called a ‘keratinised layer’. The virus enters these cells through cracks in your skin, where they start multiplying.
The keratinised layer provides protection from bacteria entering or leaving your body so that the infection only affects the outermost layers of your skin. This means that although these viruses are infecting your body, they don’t have access to any of your body’s blood vessels or internal organs.
Verrucas are most commonly located on the bottom of the foot, particularly between the toes, but they can also develop in other areas where skin rubs together – e.g., under fingernails and around hair follicles. This means that if you have a verruca, it’s possible for it to spread from one part of your foot to another if it’s not removed quickly enough.
There are a number of different types of warts and verrucas. These are detailed below, together with some information on how you can treat them.
These skin coloured warts normally appear on the hands or feet. They look like large spots or bumps that have a rough surface and appear in clusters. They sometimes bleed if knocked hard, although this is more likely to happen with older warts that have gone deeper into your skin.
A common wart may eventually disappear on its own or through some home treatment methods, but you should seek professional medical advice before you attempt to wart or verruca removal at home, as some of these methods can damage healthy skin when used incorrectly.
These occur most commonly in children between 5 and 15 years old who are often barefoot. The verruca appears as one or more lumps on the soles of the feet, which cause considerable discomfort when walking or standing for long periods of time. They can be very difficult to treat and may recur often.
It is best to visit a pharmacy for treatment advice as the pharmacist may be able to recommend a range of treatments, but you should seek medical advice from your doctor before trying any self-treatment.
Plantar warts can be resistant to over the counter treatments that can be bought from pharmacies, and some of these treatments should not be used for children under the age of 16.
Warts that appear on the genitals are called genital warts and are also caused by the HPV wart virus.
There is another lesser-known type of wart called mosaic warts. These are similar to plantar warts, but they tend to be smaller and may have more than one surface. Treatment is usually similar to that of plantar warts. If you are not sure which type of wart you have, it is best to seek advice from your doctor.
It is important to know what verrucas look like to be able identify them and seek treatment for them.
Verrucas look similar to plantar warts, except they’re smooth and often a yellowy-brown colour when they mature. The tiny black dots on verrucas are small openings in the surface of the wart through which the human papillomavirus enters and leaves the wart. They can often be a distinguishing feature between verrucas and other types of warts.
Verrucas normally disappear without treatment within three years in young people and two years in adults. Some verrucas cause no discomfort apart from where skin touches the skin, i.e., rubbing on shoes or socks. However, in some cases, they can cause pain in the foot when walking or standing.
There is no evidence that verrucas are harmful in any way. They may cause some discomfort if left untreated, but they will not cause any long-term damage to your health. Some people may find them itchy or painful, and they may be a source of embarrassment for some people.
Some people may choose to leave them alone if they cause no discomfort or are generally pain-free. The choice is always yours, but if the veruca is causing you problems, then removing verrucas may help ease symptoms such as itching or discomfort when walking or standing.
Yes – they are caused HPV which can be transmitted between people through close skin-to-skin contact or in showers and swimming pools. It is crucial not to share shoes or socks with a person who has a verruca. Also, keep your feet dry and clean to prevent getting or spreading the virus.
Will a wart or verruca heal on its own?
People often refer to verrucas as self-curing because they can sometimes disappear on their own. This normally happens slowly over time without any treatment, usually within two to three years. Sometimes it may take longer in people with a weakened immune system.
If the verruca has disappeared completely, it is unlikely that it will ever come back. But, if the verruca hasn’t disappeared after several months of trying self-treatment, then you should make an appointment with your GP to ascertain whether further verruca treatment is necessary.
You may be wondering: how do you get rid of verrucas? Getting rid of verrucas at home is possible; however, you could cause further damage to the skin or even cause an infection, so it is not necessarily the best way to get rid of verrucas. This process involves pulling a verruca out with tweezers. Nevertheless, if you do want to learn how to remove a verruca root at home, you will need the following:
Soak your feet in warm water for around 15 minutes to soften the skin and make it easier to remove the wart. Dry your feet thoroughly before starting this process. You can apply white vinegar to the area if available because it helps dry out warts faster; however, it is not essential.
A scrub can be used to exfoliate excess hard skin, which also removes some of the verruca. Pumice stones or nail files can be used on the verruca but not on surrounding healthy skin as this may cause scarring or bleeding.
Pull off any dry pieces of skin with the tweezers. If you have an older verruca that is difficult to remove, soak it in white vinegar for around 5 minutes. Repeat until all of the verruca has been removed. Apply antiseptic cream to reduce inflammation and prevent infection.
If you are unsuccessful at pulling out a verruca using these steps, seek treatment advice from your local GP.
You can visit your pharmacist and ask for the best verruca treatment. For example:
Your pharmacist will also tell you what to expect from these topical treatments. To prevent further irritation of the area, it may be beneficial for you to wear cotton socks or clean cotton gloves at night after applying the medicine in order to prevent further irritation of the area.
If the verruca is particularly severe and/or there is more than one verruca, it may be necessary to visit your GP for specialist treatment. Your GP will decide on the best course of action after examination and may refer you to a consultant dermatologist or a podiatrist.
Podiatrists are specialist doctors who have been trained in looking after the feet, and they carry out treatments such as cryotherapy, curettage and electrodesiccation. There’s also the option of laser therapy which provides an alternative method of removing verrucas and wart using focused light beams that destroy cells in the wart or verruca area.
These may sound intimidating, but they normally do not cause much pain and can be carried out in one day. If you have a large number of warts, you could also be prescribed a course of anti-viral tablets, which reduce the symptoms and speed up recovery time.
Cryotherapy is carried out at a hospital, by a GP or by a specialist nurse. The specialist will freeze the verruca using liquid nitrogen on a cotton bud and then cover it with padding to reduce any discomfort. It may take a few weeks for the skin to heal after cryotherapy. Rest assured that this liquid nitrogen based treatment process is safe for pregnant women.
Also known as excision removal, this is where your GP scrapes off layers of your skin (epidermis) with a surgical scalpel in order to destroy them and stop them from spreading under your skin. This surgical removal only affects the upper layers of the epidermis, so you will not be left with scars once healed and can wear normal footwear afterwards, although this might hurt and cause bleeding.
This process involves burning away layers of your skin using an electric current much like when an electric eel produces an electric current. There is usually no bleeding, but it does cause some discomfort and skin sensitivity afterwards.
Warts and verrucas are skin conditions that can appear anywhere on the body but are usually found on the soles of the feet.
The main cause of verrucas is the human papilloma virus (HPV). The HPV virus is able to penetrate the skin and develop on the top layer where several cells grow together, forming a hard surface – this is called a ‘keratinised layer’
There is no evidence that verrucas are harmful in any way. They may cause some discomfort if left untreated, but they will not cause any long-term damage to your health.
People often refer to verrucas as self-curing because they can sometimes disappear on their own. This normally happens slowly over time without any treatment, usually within two to three years.