What are verrucas?
Before we can talk about how to treat verrucas, we need to know a bit about what they are. Verrucas (verrucae) are basically a type of wart that occur on the foot. They are also known as plantar warts and they're caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are over 200 sub-types of HPV, but only 5 main types cause verrucae.
How do I get verrucas?
Verrucae are spread when skin cells containing the virus are shed onto surfaces such as floors, and someone else’s skin comes into contact with these. A verruca virus can enter more easily if the skin is soggy and damp, or slightly scuffed (think the lovely, rough tiles around swimming pools – perfect!). The virus can remain on a surface for up to 3 weeks, so always wear flip-flops on these surfaces to limit your chances of picking up a verruca.
The infection can incubate for up to 8 months before the verruca itself appears on the skin surface.
Why are verrucas so hard to treat?
The HPV virus lives in the epidermis, which doesn’t have a blood supply. This means that the white blood cells that help the body to fight infections don’t detect it. The virus itself also activates anti-inflammatory cells to stop the immune system picking it up (immune ignorance).
How do I treat verrucas?
Verrucae are not harmful, but they can be unsightly and painful. Most will resolve on their own, but this may take months or years due to the immune ignorance described earlier.
Any treatment for verrucae is designed to create inflammation within the skin, to help the immune system to recognise the virus and eradicate it.
There are several treatments available for verrucae. We offer 2 in our clinic:
- Salicylic acid (either applied at home, such as Bazooka, Wartner etc.) or a stronger version applied by a podiatrist (this requires a dressing to be kept in place for several days)
- SWIFT microwave verruca treatment – this is a relatively new treatment and clinical studies have shown it to be one of the most successful methods of treating verrucae. It uses microwaves to create heat in the tissues, triggering the inflammatory response. Find out more about SWIFT microwave verruca treatment
If you are struggling to get rid of stubborn verrucae, contact a podiatrist for advice!