Warts and verrucas

Written by: 
Dr Roger Henderson

What exactly are warts and verrucas?

Warts and verrucas are due to a harmless viral infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. in the skin caused by a type of human papilloma virusA sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts and may also have a role in the development of various cancers. (HPVAn abbreviation for human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts and may also have a role in the development of various cancers.).  HPVAn abbreviation for human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts and may also have a role in the development of various cancers. causes keratin, a hard protein in the top layer of the skin, to grow too much, leading to the typical roughened texture of a wart. There are many different wart virusesMicrobes that are only able to multiply within living cells.. A wart on the sole of the foot is called a verruca.

Warts become increasingly common throughout childhood and adolescence, but their frequency drops drastically on reaching adulthood. Their appearance may differ depending on the location on the body and how thick the skin is.

What do warts and verruccas look like?

Warts on the hands are found most frequently around the nails and on the fingers and are often shaped like a tiny cauliflower. Verrucas, on the other hand, are seen most often on the ball of the foot and appear as areas of flat, thicker skin with a harder edge around a softer centre.

Are warts and veruccas contagious?

The wart virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. is very contagiousAny disease that is communicable.. An individual wart contains thousands of virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. particles and touching a wart releases them, so that they can go on to infect others. If a wart bleeds or breaks up it becomes even more contagiousAny disease that is communicable.. The floor of bathrooms and swimming pools, where wet skin touches hard flooring, is a common source of infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites.; people with scratches or cuts on the soles of their feet are especially vulnerable.

It can take several months for warts and verrucas to develop after infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites..

How are warts and verrucas treated?

Although no treatment is guaranteed to remove warts or verrucas, fortunately most warts go away by themselves within a year or two irrespective of whether they are treated or not.

The success of any treatment depends on the person's age, how many warts they have and where the warts are. Over-the-counter medicines are available from pharmacists, while doctors can prescribe corrosive solutions, and can also freeze warts and verrucas with liquid nitrogen - several treatments are usually necessary before the warts are totally removed.

Do folk remedies work?

The answer is no, although because the warts tend to die out naturally they can sometimes appear to work. However, some people are convinced that the homoeopathic medicines Thuja 6c or Causticum 6c have speeded up the removal of their warts both on the hands and feet.