What are Verrucae and How are they Treated?

Verrucae are warts that are often found on the plantar aspect (soles) of the feet or around the toes. They are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are currently more than 100 known types of HPV; subtypes 1, 2 and 4 are most common on the hands and feet. HPV is a highly contagious virus and is passed easily between people via invisible cuts or abrasions on softened (macerated) skin on the soles of the feet. Once infected the virus remains latent in the basal layer of the epidermis from 1 – 8 months. HPV thrives in warm, damp and moist environments particularly:

  • Communal changing rooms floors
  • Communal shower area
  • Swimming pools

Verrucae are harmless and will resolve on their own, resolution in children is faster than in adults, they can persist in adults for several years. Sometimes there will be no symptoms or pain and therefore will not require treatment. Treatment is recommended if the verrucae are causing: –

  • Embarrassment
  • Pain because they are located in a weight bearing part of the foot

If you think you might have a verruca check the area to see if it has a ‘cauliflower’ like appearance sometimes with tiny black spots in the centre, a magnifying glass this will help with the investigation. If you squeeze (pinch) the area and it is painful it is likely you have a verrucae. It is important that at the verrucae is not picked or scratched as they can easily spread onto feet and hands (warts).

See a HCPC registered Podiatrist or your GP to confirm if you have a verruca in case you have a differential diagnosis for examples corns, which would require different treatment. Once the verrucae have been diagnosed a treatment plan would be discussed. Up to 6 treatments would be given using a topical treatment containing Salicylic Acid or Silver Nitrate.

Before topical treatment can be applied it is important that the callus (hard skin) that often forms over the verruca is removed. Treatment is applied and a dressing and padding may be necessary. In-between clinic visits home treatment is vital to increase the chances of a successful outcome. Treating verrucae is a long and laborious undertaking which can become frustrating. Because verrucae have different durations, sizes and locations there are no guarantees of successfully resolving verrucae . After 6 treatments if verrucaes were not resolved alternative treatment options would be explored.

Immuno-suppressed and diabetic patients should seek advice before starting any treatment.