Warts and Verrucae Removal
Warts are caused by an infection with a type of ‘human papilloma virus’ (HPV) in the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis). This infection causes growth and thickening of this outer layer. Verrucas, also known as plantar warts, occur on the soles of the feet (the plantar surface).
How do we get warts and verrucas?
Although this infection is ‘caught’ by contact with virally-infected skin scales, the virus is not highly contagious. Infection is more common in childhood and when using public locker rooms.
How can warts and verrucas be treated?
Considering treatment, it is important to remember the following:
- Warts usually go away by themselves, and, when this happens, no scarring occurs
- Even if a particular wart or verruca is successfully treated, new ones may develop
- Some warts can be very stubborn, even against agressive treatment
- Treating warts and verrucas can be painful and can occasionally leave a scar which, on the sole of the foot, can be uncomfortable
- Sometimes plantar warts are actually better left alone and allowed to resolve spontaneously.
If treatment is necessary, we usually start with less painful options, especially for children.
FACTS AND QUESTIONS ABOUT warts and verrucas
- Salicylic acid preparations – This chemical helps removal of the hard outer layer of the wart. Skin should be pared down or filed with sandpaper prior to application of the acid solution.
- Formaldehyde preparations – Mosaic warts (many small warts packed together in a small area) in particular may respond to a gel containing formaldehyde
- Cryotherapy – Freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen, using either a cotton wool bud or a spray, may be the next option. Treatment is usually repeated every 3-4 weeks. It is painful and may lead to blistering afterwards, and so it may not be suggested by your doctor for small children
If the above treatments do not clear the warts, your doctor may advise on the following:
- Removal under local anaesthetic – A sharpened spoon-like instrument (a curette) is used to gently scrape the wart away, the remaining raw area then being cauterized. As with all surgical procedures, a small scar may result, and this may be painful on the sole of the foot
- Laser treatment – Here a targeted beam of laser light is aimed at the wart or verruca. Energy from the laser destroys the blood vessels feeding the area, the wart or verruca naturally falling off after a few weeks. This highly effective treatment may still require multiple treatments when dealing with deep-seated stubborn warts and verrucas
The following ‘self-care’ advice will help minimize discomfort and spread of warts and verrucas:
- Never try to remove the wart or verruca yourself
- Choose comfortable shoes that minimise pressure on verrucas
- Avoid sharing shoes or socks with anyone else
- Pressure-relieving pads can be purchased at any pharmacy
- Keep feet clean and dry, and change socks daily
- Avoid going barefoot in public places. Cover plantar warts with waterproof plasters or ‘verruca socks’ if you go swimming
- Avoid picking at plantar warts. When paring your wart down, carefully dispose of the dead skin. Sand paper will also have living wart virus on it, so avoid using it for any other purpose
- Take care when paring or filing down warts, as damage to the surrounding skin may cause spreading of the warts
- Check your children periodically for warts and verrucas