WHAT IS A VERRUCA?
Most of us get a wart or verruca at some time in our lives, usually when we’re a child or teenager.¹
The good news is, even though they don’t look very pleasant, warts and verrucas can often be treated at home. They are just hard, noncancerous lumps that appear on your skin.² Having said that, if someone in your family gets one, you’ll probably be keen to see the back of it as soon as possible.
So, what is the difference between a wart and a verruca?
A wart, also known as the common wart, usually appears on the top of toes, knees, hands and fingers. A verruca, which only ever appears on the sole of the foot, is one of the four main types of warts.³
It’s also worth mentioning that some people use the old-fashioned term ‘verrucae’ rather than ‘verrucas’ as the plural for verruca.
WHAT DOES A VERRUCA LOOK LIKE?
Most warts and verrucas are easy to recognise by sight.
Verrucas may have a tiny black dot at the centre.³ Some people mistakenly believe this is the root of the wart, but it’s actually caused by bleeding in the verruca that results from standing and walking on it.⁶ Verrucas tend to look quite flat for this same reason, as opposed to warts which can be raised.
Apart from their appearance and occasional discomfort when walking, warts and verrucas aren’t usually painful.²
However, young children can find the appearance of a wart or verruca disturbing, so you may want to put their mind at rest.
WHAT CAUSES A VERRUCA ON THE FOOT?
As the incubation period for warts and verrucas can be several months⁶, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint how any individual infection occurred. They are caused by something called the human papillomavirus (HPV) and can disappear by themselves, over time.
Warts and verrucas are contagious and can spread from person to person by direct skin to skin contact, such as shaking hands. The virus can also be passed on by inanimate objects such as towels or even doorknobs.⁵
Verrucas thrive in damp conditions, which is why you should keep your feet as dry as possible, particularly during the hot sweaty months of summer. Verrucas can also be spread from shared surfaces, such as public swimming pools or communal showers.⁸
Always wash your hands after you have touched the affected area. You may want to keep the wart or verruca covered with a plaster.⁸
WHEN LEFT UNTREATED, HOW LONG DOES VERRUCA REMOVAL TAKE?
Warts and verrucas will usually disappear without treatment, although this can take a long time which many people find frustrating. In children, around 50% will have cured themselves within a year, and this figure rises to approximately 65% within two years.³
However, it may take longer for adults to rid themselves of warts and verrucas. In some cases, it can take as long as 10 years.³
HOW TO GET RID OF VERRUCAS AT HOME?
As tempting as it might be, try to resist scratching or picking at the affected area as this could make the problem more likely to spread to other parts of the body.⁵
There are steps you can take yourself to remove a verruca. For an easy-to-use home treatment, you might consider the Scholl Verruca & Wart Complete Treatment Pen which contains trichloroacetic acid. With this, you could see results within just one week as the top layers of the wart start peeling off.
If simple treatments like this don’t clear the problem up for you, then you may need to seek help from your doctor. You should also visit your GP if you have a wart that bleeds, changes appearance, spreads, is painful³ or appears in an embarrassing place, such as on your face.ᴲ If you are concerned about the growth or if it keeps coming back, please see a doctor.
From there, you may be referred to a dermatologist or specialist skin clinic for treatment. They might recommend cryotherapy, which involves freezing your wart off using liquid nitrogen, or surgery carried out under a local anaesthetic.
HOW CAN YOU STOP WARTS AND VERRUCAS RETURNING?
Keeping your feet clean is no guarantee of avoiding warts and verrucas, but good hygiene will certainly help. Try to keep your feet dry and change your socks every day.⁵
As they are contagious, it makes sense to avoid close skin to skin contact with other people’s warts or verrucas. For the same reason, try not to share towels, socks or shoes, including with other members of your family.⁷
It’s hard to completely avoid coming into contact with HPV, but you can always take sensible precautions such as wearing flip-flops when you’re at the local swimming pool.⁷
² https://www.healthline.com/health/are-warts-contagious - sourced 2019
⁴ https://cks.nice.org.uk/warts-and-verrucae - sourced 2019