Warts & Verrucas.

Everything you need to know.

Warts often appear on the hands and feet, though they can spread to other parts of the body, for example around the nails, lips and genitals. A wart is a contagious viral infection of the skin, usually taking the form of a small hard nodule. Verrucas are warts that develop on the soles of the feet.

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What causes Warts & Verrucas?

Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus, which enters the skin surface, causing growth and thickening of the top (epidermal) layer of the skin. This produces the rough, hard texture of a wart. Warts are contagious, and close skin-to-skin contact can pass on the infection.

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wart

What are the symptoms/types of Warts & Verrucas?

Warts vary in appearance depending on where they are on the body and how thick the skin is, but the common wart is often round, firm and raised, with a rough surface (see pictures). On close inspection, many tiny black dots may be seen in the centre, caused by ruptured blood vessels.

The majority (70%) of all warts are found on the fingers and hands. Warts commonly occur around fingernails, especially in children and can lead to a depression in the nail matrix, causing grooves to develop in the nails. Verrucas, which are warts on the feet account for 25% of all wart virus infections. These can be painful during walking.

How can it be prevented?

The risk of infection is increased if the skin is damaged or wet and in contact with roughened surfaces, for example, in communal swimming pools. After becoming infected, it can take several weeks for a wart or verruca to appear.

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Mosaic veruccas on foot

What Wart & Verruca treatments are available?

When Diphencyprone (DCP) is applied to the skin (painted onto the warts every 2-4 weeks), it boosts the immune response and this helps to clear the virus responsible for causing warts and verrucas. Most patients with warts will respond to treatment with DCP. If your warts have not responded to standard therapies, there is a good chance they may be cleared with DCP therapy.

Wart & Verruca treatments we offer include:

  • Chemical treatments (salicylic acid or formaldehyde preparations depending on the type of wart)

  • Cryotherapy (freezing the skin cells with liquid nitrogen) to kill off the infected tissue. Usually multiple treatments at 2 to 3-week intervals are required.

  • Removal under local anaesthetic

  • Treatment for warts are not always effective first time, and a wart can sometimes recur.

Frequently asked questions

How might it affect me?

Most people will have warts at some point in their life, though they tend to affect children and young adults. Warts are generally not painful, though verrucas can be sore to stand on. Some people find their warts embarrassing and those on the fingers may interfere with normal daily activities.

Without treatment, the length of time it takes a wart to disappear will vary between people. As a rough guide, about a third of warts have gone within three months, and most will have resolved within 2 years. Verrucas can take a lot longer than this to disappear.

For further information please visit the NHS website and the British Association of Dermatology Patient leaflet.

Are there any other options?

Electrocautery uses heat to cauterise the blood supply to the wart virus. Occasionally, this is combined with curettage (scraping off the wart.)

Lasers that target the blood supply can also be successful, so that the wart cannot survive. One treatment is sometimes enough to kill the growth entirely. If all of the blood supply is not killed, further treatment will be needed to ensure that the growth is killed.

Side effects with the laser are minimal; although the treatment will be uncomfortable, the area is not usually that painful afterwards. In some cases, the wart will start to re-appear again after the skin has healed over. In this case, further treatment will be required. Multiple treatments can be necessary in some patients.

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