What are verruca and how are they caught?
Verrucae are warts that commonly occur on the soles of the feet. Around 10% of the population have a verruca. They are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and are passed from person to person by direct contact.
For instance, if you use communal changing rooms in swimming pools, it is possible for the virus to transfer from the floor to your skin, especially if you have any cuts or scratches. Children, teenagers and young adults are particularly prone to picking up the virus, but we do see people of all ages in our clinics.
How would I know if I had got one?
Most verrucae are painless, but if they develop on a weight bearing area, such as your heel, you might notice an area of hard skin which causes pain and can affect the way you walk.
In the early stages, verrucae can appear as a discoloured blemish or whitened area of skin. Sometimes the virus can quickly develop into clusters of tiny verrucae. They can also have black dots appear which is due to leaking of small blood vessels into the verruca.
A fairly easy way to tell if it is a verruca is to pinch it, (as you might squeeze a spot). Verrucae tend to hurt if they are pinched but not if they are pressed.
So, if I find I have one, can I treat it myself?
Well, evidence suggests that most verrucae will disappear by themselves within 2-5 years, so if you are not experiencing pain then it’s probably best to let nature heal them. We think that immunity to the virus is built up over time, which is why it’s probably more common in the young.
However, some verrucae can be painful, especially if they are on a pressure point as your body weight can help cause hard skin to develop over and around the verrucae. Some, which spread quickly or are very unsightly also require treatment. Often patients with verrucae are embarrassed to show their feet in public, so seek treatments rather than wait for many years for them to go of their own accord.
Over-the-counter ointments and gels are available; the ones containing salicylic acid have been shown to work best. However, often these remedies can be ineffective, expensive and can damage healthy skin if not used correctly.
If you have diabetes, poor circulation, have autoimmune conditions or have multiple painful verrucae then it really is best to seek professional help.
What verrucae treatments do we offer at Randell’s?
We offer a range of treatments for verrucae depending on size, length of time they have been present and your budget. They range from cryotherapy (freezing) and acid therapy to the very latest treatment options, Swift Microwave Therapy and Plasma Pen Technology.
These options would all be discussed with you at your first appointment. The Podiatrist will be able to remove the hard skin to make the area more comfortable for you, assess your verruca, determine if there are any contraindications that would prevent you from having any of these treatments, and then arrange a treatment plan for you.
Many of us will have childhood memories of verruca socks during swimming lessons – Have things moved on at all in terms of prevention? Can I protect myself against infection?
The virus that causes verrucae has been shown to thrive in warm, damp environments such as changing rooms, swimming pools and communal showers. Verruca socks are still available and can help protect feet, as can using flip flops in the changing room or showers.
We would recommend using a protector spray such as Excilor 3-in-1 which dries within seconds to create an invisible barrier between our skin and the floor. Much less embarrassing than verruca socks!
To protect against any infection, it important to keep your feet as healthy as possible, using cream to prevent hard skin and covering any abrasions or cuts.
The important thing to remember is that the pain and embarrassment of verrucae are not something you just have to live with. There is help available, so don’t suffer in silence.