Verrucas and warts are common skin complaints caused by a viral infection. They can appear anywhere on the skin but the most popular sites are the hands, fingers and feet. They can appear singly or in clusters. As the virus attacks the skin, it causes a build up of dead skin cells. The virus then multiplies causing a protruding growth. The growth becomes hard and raised unless it is on the sole of the foot in which case the constant pressure of the body's weight keeps it smooth and flat. If they appear on the sole of the foot they can become painful and walking can become uncomfortable.

One in ten people will develop a wart or verruca at some point in their lifetime. They can affect people of all ages but they are especially common during the early teenage years. They can be passed on from one person to another. Verrucas and warts are not caused by poor hygiene.

Causes

Verrucas and warts are caused by a virus known as the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts and verrucas are the same thing but they are given different names depending on where they are sited. Common warts or 'verruca vulgaris' are those that develop on the hands, fingers and face and verrucas or 'verruca plantaris' are those that appear on the feet.

The virus can be spread by direct contact, by sharing towels and footwear and by wet surfaces such as swimming pools, baths, showers and changing rooms.

Avoiding Verrucas And Warts

  • Avoid contact with anyone who has verrucas or warts. Contact includes sharing towels and footwear. Wear sandals or flip-flops in communal changing rooms and showers to reduce the risk of catching verrucas. Personal hygiene is very important. Wash your feet daily and more often if they get very sweaty
  • Always dry your feet properl

Treatment

After a while, your body should develop resistance or immunity to the virus, so if warts and verrucas are left alone, they should disappear in time. However, if they are causing pain, embarrassment, worry or inconvenience then they can be treated. Many treatments can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy. They are usually in the form of cream, paint, liquid, gel or plasters. They should be used for as long as the instructions state. Between each application, dead skin should be removed using a pumice stone or file. The treatment can be damaging if applied to normal skin.If warts and verrucas are causing particular embarrassment or pain, they can be removed.Do not poke or scrape verrucas and warts too much because this can spread the virus and cause more to develop.Keep affected areas clean by washing daily.Do not share towels or footwear with anyone else.Wear sandals or flip-flops in damp conditions to prevent the virus spreading to others. This is especially important in communal changing rooms and showers.Soak your feet or hands in water and then remove any dead skin with a pumice stone or file.

When To See A Doctor

Seek medical advice if you are diabetic and you develop a verruca, if you develop warts around your genital (private) area or if you do not respond to treatment.