A wart and a verruca are basically the same thing, small growths of hard skin. The term wart is used to describe growths on the fingers while verruca is used to describe a growth that develops on the sole of the foot. Many children and teenagers develop warts or verrucas, or both but they can also occur later in life.
We offer a range of treatment options for both wart and verruca removal at our clinic in Harley Street.
What causes warts and verrucas?
These small growths arise because the skin is infected with the human papilloma virus (HPV). Skin cells infected by this virus overproduce keratin, a skin protein that is very tough. The mound of keratin hardens into a typical raised white scaly lump.
Can you catch warts and verrucas?
You can catch warts and verrucas, but they are not spread very easily. The HPV virus that causes these small, hard skin growths can spread in damp conditions in changing rooms, gyms and swimming pools, or in small children by hand-to-hand contact during play.
If you have a verruca, you will need to wear special waterproof socks to prevent your virus being spread to other people. If you want to avoid verrucas, you could wear these whenever you swim or do sport in a facility with communal changing areas.
Do warts or verrucas need treatment?
Warts are caused by a virus so when the body becomes immune to HPV, the wart disappears. This generally takes about two years from when the wart first appears. Hand warts often go away by themselves without treatment.
Verrucas tend to be more deep-seated within the fleshier sole of the foot and they can cause discomfort or pain when walking, running or standing. Many verrucas are treated because they cause more severe symptoms.
Any wart or verruca should be checked by a GP or a dermatologist and treatment may be needed if:
- The wart or verruca bleeds
- It continues to grow, spreading into neighbouring areas of skin
- The wart or verruca changes suddenly
- It is causing pain, or if you want it removed for cosmetic reasons
In very rare circumstances, some people develop a large cluster of very large warts or verrucas. This may indicate a problem with the immune system, which needs to be investigated so that the cause of the problem can be identified.
Myths about warts
Lots of myths and old wives tales exist about warts and how they can be treated. Superstitions suggest the wart will disappear if you do things such as rubbing the wart with raw meat and then burying it until a full moon.
These no doubt came about because people did this around the time they became immune to the virus that causes warts, so the treatment appeared to work.
How warts and verrucas can be treated successfully
- Cryotherapy – the wart or verruca can be frozen by liquid nitrogen that is applied directly to the skin of the growth. It may take several sessions for the wart to disappear completely and the treatment can be uncomfortable. This treatment is best carried out by a Consultant Dermatologist.
- Salicylic acid – many over-the-counter preparations are available with varying strengths and varying levels of effectiveness. Treatment can take 12 weeks and can be difficult to keep up. This method of treatment is most useful for very small hand warts but larger warts and verrucas need to be frozen off.
- Surgery – larger warts or verrucae may require surgery if they fail to respond to other treatments such as cryotherapy and salicylic acid.