what is a verruca?
A verruca is a wart that appears on the foot. Verrucae are caused by several strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) so their appearance can vary. Infection by HPV 1 results in single verruca’s appearing on the sole of the foot. They usually have a rough, cauliflower like surface interspersed with black dots. This is because the virus causes a layer of the skin to thicken and push up the capillaries in it. The squeezed capillaries clot and look like black dots from the surface. Infection by HPV2 results in mosaic verruca’s that look like a cluster of single warts and can be found on the sole of the foot, on the edge of the nail or even under the nail.
how did I get it?
School age children are the most likely to be infected and most people will become infected with HPV at some point in their lives. Verrucae are spread by either direct contact or via a contaminated surface. Infection is more likely to occur if the skin is damp and in contact with a rough surface such as communal showers and swimming pools.
how do I know it is a verruca?
Corns are painful when you stand on them whereas verrucae are not usually painful. However, verrucae can become painful when you squeeze them together at the edges. Also the ridges in the skin (the foot’s ‘finger print’) can appear pushed to either side of a verruca, whereas the ridges continue through a corn.
it is a verruca, what do I do now?
- check your family members to see if they’ve been infected
- cover verruca’s with waterproof plasters or verruca socks when barefoot or swimming to prevent infecting other people
- don’t share your socks and shoes
do I need to treat it?
Studies have shown that 65% of verrucae disappear with no treatment after 2 years. However, verrucae in adults, those with immunosuppression or children where the virus has persisted for more than 2 years are less likely to clear up spontaneously. If the verruca is causing pain or other complications it may be advisable to think about treatment. Verrucae are an outward symptom of an underlying infection, therefore, an immune response is usually essential to clear a verruca. Most verruca treatments involve destroying tissue to increase the chance for the HPV antigen to be recognized by the immune system and promote an immune response.
how do I know my verruca treatment is working?
- you should notice the black dots disappearing
- the area may become more tender
- the colour may change to a yellowy-orange
The skin is considered healed when its appearance has looked normal for 2 weeks.
I’ll discuss a few methods to treat verrucae next time…