What is a Verrucae?
Verrucae is a plantar wart which is small, rough, raised or flattened growth on the sole of the feet or around the toe area. They may have tiny black dots in the centre and an appearance of a small cauliflower-type growth. and can be painful when you put weight on them. They can grow to 1cm and may spread into a cluster of small warts.
What causes verrucae?
A verrucae is caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The virus enters the epidermis layer of the skin through a cut or breakage in the skin causing it to thicken and coarsen. The HPV virus can spread from person to person by direct skin contact or by indirect contact via the floors or surfaces contaminated with the virus such as swimming pools and communal wash areas such as showers.
People with scratches or cuts on the soles of their feet are particularly vulnerable as the virus enters the skin through tiny breaks in the skin surface. The viral particles may spread to other areas of the skin if the verrucae is scratched.
It is possible to develop an immunity against the virus over time, but most people remain susceptible, although some more than others.
A verrucae can be treated at home using ointments and gels purchased from the local pharmacy. Occasionally, by rubbing away the dry skin over a verrucae and applying a plaster helps to stimulate the body’s immune system to fight the infection. However, if your verrucae becomes painful or the surrounding skin area becomes red then stop the treatment and see a podiatrist. This is because if the healthy tissue around a verrucae is damaged, you could hamper further treatment.
Treatment by Podiatrist
The podiatrist will assess your general well-being and foot health prior to a treatment plan. If your verrucae are persistent then the podiatrist may suggest one of the following treatments:
- Acid-based treatment such as the use of salicylic acid which is stronger than regular ‘over the counter’ (OTC) treatment.
- Cryotherapy which involves freezing the verrucae with liquid nitrogen.
- Electrosurgery, which requires a local anaesthetic to be given to the affected area to remove unwanted lesions
- Laser surgery, particularly for larger areas of verrucae.
- Dry Needling – where the entire area of the verrucae is pricked with a needle to stimulate the body’s immune system under a local anaesthetic.
How can I prevent getting infected?
To avoid catching verrucae, keep your feet in a healthy condition. Always dry them thoroughly after washing and if your feet are sweaty, treat them with surgical spirit. If they are dry use suitable creams or lotions to moisturise them but avoid applying between the toes.
Other tips include wearing flip-flops in communal areas, not sharing towels, shoes and socks, and treating conditions such as athlete’s foot with a specialist treatment from the pharmacist.
If you have a verrucae and want to go swimming, wear special verrucae socks to avoid spreading the virus. These can also be worn as a preventative measure.
When should I see a podiatrist?
If the verrucae are not troublesome or not hurting you and your health is generally good then the best option is leave it alone. However, you should book an appointment to see a podiatrist if:
- You are diabetic, have poor circulation, are pregnant or have any other condition affecting your feet (or your immune system).
- You have tried various self-treatments and none of them have worked for you.
- Your verrucae is getting larger and painful
- You have had the verrucae for a long time, and you are worried about this.
If you experience any foot care issues that do not resolve themselves naturally or through routine foot care within three weeks, it is recommended that you seek the help of a HCPC registered Podiatrist/Chiropodist.
Patients with diabetes should not begin any treatment for their verrucae without first checking with their GP or podiatrist.