A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Treating Warts and Verrucas
Warts and verrucas are common skin conditions that many people encounter at some point in their lives. These small, rough lumps or growths on your skin are caused by a virus and can appear anywhere on your body. They're most common in school-age children and teenagers, but adults can get them too. While they're usually harmless, they can be unsightly and sometimes uncomfortable.
Causes of Warts and Verrucas
Warts and verrucas are caused by an infection of your skin with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This virus can spread from person to person through direct skin contact. The risk of spreading is usually fairly low, but it's more likely to happen if you damage the top layer of the wart, as this exposes the virus more. Indirect transmission can also occur if you touch something that's been contaminated with HPV, such as a floor or surface in communal areas like swimming pools and showers.
Types of Warts and Verrucas
There are several different types of warts and verrucas, each with its own characteristics:
- Common warts: These are firm, raised growths with a rough surface – they might look like a very small cauliflower. They're normally greyish-white or light brown, and usually a few millimetres across. This type of wart is most commonly found on your hands, fingers, or knees.
- Filiform warts: These have a finger-like appearance, sometimes with a stalk. They're most commonly found on your face or neck.
- Flat warts (Plane warts): Plane warts are round, smooth, and slightly raised, with a flat top. They can be slightly brown, greyish-yellow, or skin-coloured. They're most common on your face and the backs of your hands. You will often have more than one at a time.
- Plantar warts (Verrucas): Verrucas are warts on the soles of your feet. They may have tiny black dots in the centre – these are blood clots that have formed in tiny blood vessels. They may be painful, especially when you put weight on them. Sometimes, if you have clusters of verrucas, they can fuse together. These are called mosaic warts.
- Periungual warts: These warts appear around the nails on the fingers and toes. They can affect nail growth by causing the nail to lift or detach from the skin.
Remember, while warts and verrucas can be a nuisance, they're usually harmless and often disappear on their own over time. However, if they're causing you discomfort or you're concerned about them, there are various treatment options available, which we'll explore in the next section.
Treatment Options for Warts and Verrucas
When it comes to treating warts and verrucas, there are several over-the-counter options that you can try. One of the most common is salicylic acid-based products. These treatments work by softening and dissolving the abnormal skin cells of the wart or verruca. They come in various forms, such as liquids, gels, pads, or ointments. Examples include Salactol Wart Paint and Duofilm.
Another option is freezing sprays, which contain liquid butane. These sprays are applied directly onto the wart to freeze and kill the tissue. However, it's important to note that these home treatments may not freeze the wart deep enough to be effective and can also be painful. Examples of freezing treatments include Scholl Freeze Verruca & Wart Remover and Wartner.
If over-the-counter treatments aren't effective, you might want to consider seeking medical help. Your doctor can offer several treatments, such as freezing with liquid nitrogen, burning or cautery, or applying stronger acids.
In some cases, your doctor might suggest bleomycin injections, which kill the virus causing the wart. Another option is immune system-boosting injections, which stimulate your body's immune system to fight off the wart.
For certain types of warts, your doctor might prescribe a topical medication called imiquimod. This medication enhances your body's immune response, making it more effective at fighting off the wart.
Self-Help for Warts and Verrucas
In addition to over-the-counter and medical treatments, there are also some self-help methods you can try at home. One popular method is the duct tape method. This involves covering the wart or verruca with duct tape for six days, then soaking it in water and rubbing it with an emery board or pumice stone on the seventh day. This process is repeated until the wart disappears. While the effectiveness of this method is debated, it's a safe and inexpensive option to try.
Remember, treating warts and verrucas can take time and patience, so don't be discouraged if they don't disappear right away. And always consult with a healthcare professional if you're unsure about the best treatment option for you.
Prevention and FAQs
Prevention of Warts and Verrucas
While it's not always possible to prevent warts and verrucas, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. Good hygiene practices are essential. This includes washing your hands regularly and not picking at or scratching warts, as this can spread the virus to other parts of your body.
It's also important to avoid direct contact with other people's warts or verrucas. This includes not using the same towels or other personal items.
When in communal areas like swimming pools, gyms, or showers, it's a good idea to wear flip-flops or pool shoes to protect your feet from coming into contact with the virus.
When to Seek Medical Help
While most warts and verrucas are harmless and will go away on their own, there are times when you should seek medical help. If your wart or verruca is causing you pain, has changed in appearance, or is spreading despite treatment, it's a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional. Also, if you have a weakened immune system or a condition like diabetes, it's recommended to seek medical advice before attempting to treat a wart or verruca yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will using duct tape get rid of my wart or verruca?
The duct tape method can be effective for some people, but it's not guaranteed to work for everyone. It's a safe and inexpensive option to try, but always consult with a healthcare professional if you're unsure.
What are the black bits in a verruca?
The black bits in a verruca are tiny blood clots that have formed in the small blood vessels of the wart.
Are warts and verrucas the same thing?
While both are caused by the same type of virus (HPV), warts and verrucas are not exactly the same. The main difference is where they appear on the body. Warts can appear anywhere, but verrucas (also known as plantar warts) are warts that occur on the soles of the feet.
Do warts and verrucas go away?
Yes, most warts and verrucas will eventually go away on their own as your immune system fights off the virus. However, this can take time - sometimes up to two years.
Why do you get warts?
Warts are caused by an infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). The virus causes an excess amount of keratin, a hard protein, to develop in the top skin layer (epidermis), leading to a rough, hard texture. The virus is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact or by touching a surface that a person with a wart has touched.
Remember, while warts and verrucas can be a nuisance, they're usually harmless. If you're ever in doubt, don't hesitate to seek advice from a healthcare professional.
- Bupa UK: Warts and verrucas
- MedicineNet: What is the best over-the-counter wart remover?
- WebMD: Understanding Common Warts – Treatment