Causes, Signs, & Treatment
Have a question about warts and verrucas? Have a wart on your body, but not sure how to treat it? We may have an answer for you here. Read on to learn more about causes, symptoms, and treatments.
What are warts and verrucas?
Warts are benign growths on the skin caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and can appear anywhere on the body, either alone or in clusters. The term “verruca” can also be used when referring to warts on the body, or when specifically referring to a wart on the sole of the foot (more technically known as “verruca plantaris” or simply plantar wart).
What are the signs of warts and verrucas?
Warts and verruca can be easy to identify, but their appearance can vary depending on where they are on the body.
Warts on the hands, elbows or knees are often raised, rough and scaly and can range in size from pinhead to pea size. Their colour can be the same as your skin, are not usually painful - although they may sometimes itch.
A verruca can appear as a hard lump on the sole of the foot. They may be discoloured with a small black dot in the centre. A verruca on the sole of the foot can cause pain or tenderness when walking or standing.
What causes warts and verrucas?
Warts and verrucas are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are over 150 types known strains of HPV that can cause different types of warts and verrucas.
These viruses are more likely to cause a wart or verruca if they come into direct contact with broken or cut skin. It can take up to a year after infection for a wart or verruca to appear on your skin.
You can become infected directly from skin-to-skin contact or indirectly from touching contaminated objects. Warts and verrucas can also spread from one part of your body to another.
Anyone can develop warts, but factors that increase the risk include: frequently getting the hands wet, hands or feet that sweat heavily, swimming in public swimming pools and walking barefoot in areas where others have walked barefoot, such as communal showers and changing rooms.
How to treat warts and verrucas at home
For many people, warts and verrucas will often clear up on their own over time. If however, they cause discomfort or disrupt your day-to-day activities, there are various wart removal products available.
Two commonly used treatment options are salicylic acid and cryotherapy.
- This works by dissolving and breaking down the thick and hardened skin
- Regular application of salicylic acid over weeks to months is usually necessary
- Try the Scholl wart removal system, which contains salicylic acid discs which breaks down hardened skin and ensure that only the specific problem area is treated, without affecting the surrounding skin.
- Treats by freezing the wart
- Your doctor may also use liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart or verruca
- Over-the-counter options such as the Scholl Freeze Verruca & Wart Remover use a mixture of dimethyl ether and propane to rapidly freeze warts and verrucas in the comfort of your own home.
If you are concerned about your wart or verruca or if your wart or verruca persists after home treatment, you should speak to your GP.
ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. USE ONLY AS DIRECTED. See your doctor if symptoms persist.
How to prevent warts and verrucas
Most people will develop a wart or verruca at some point in their life. With that said, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing a wart:
- Wash your hands and feet thoroughly and frequently, particularly after touching surfaces in public locations such as gyms or changing rooms
- Avoid walking barefoot in damp, crowded places, and wear footwear in communal showers and changing rooms
- Maintain good personal and skin hygiene
- Avoid biting your fingernails or cuticles, or other cuts and abrasions to the skin
- Keep your feet dry and change your socks every day, to avoid getting warts on your feet
- Do not share towels in public locations such as gyms
- Wear gloves when using shared gym equipment
- Do not touch, scratch, or pick at your (or someone else’s) wart or verruca
Optimising your general foot health
A simple maintenance routine can help to keep the skin on your feet healthy:
- Daily care: Wash and dry your feet thoroughly and apply moisturiser every day
- Footwear: Ensure that your shoes fit properly (both in width and length) and are appropriate for your activity
- Appearance: Check the appearance of your feet regularly for any changes
- Movement and flexibility: Check that you can move your feet easily, without discomfort; some simple stretches may help
- Referral: Speak with your GP, pharmacist, or podiatrist if you have any concerns about your foot health
How to Minimise Exposure to Warts & Verrucas
You can minimise exposure to warts & verrucas by avoiding walking barefoot in damp, crowded places, and by avoiding abrasions to the skin. If a wart or verruca has already formed, they can be treated easily and effectively at home.