Verrucas – Why Do We Get Them and How Do We Treat Them?
Verrucae (otherwise called plantar warts) appear most commonly on the feet and can be painful when pressure is applied. Many of us will have experienced this unpleasant condition in childhood.
How to identify them
To the untrained eye it could be easy to confuse a verruca with a corn or callus, as initially both appear to be hardened skin. However these nasty little things have a quite distinctive appearance. A Verruca is a virus which are usually circular in shape, like a corn, but the edge will be slightly thickened and if you look closely you will see that the surface will have small black dots. These may appear singly or in clusters. If you are uncertain as to whether you have a verruca or not, see your podiatrist who can advise you on treatment. A side note – if you are worried by any growth or blemish on the skin you should consult a health care professional.
How do we get verrucas?
A common tale says that we ‘catch’ verrucas at swimming pools but this is largely a myth. Having said that it is advisable for anyone who has verrucas to wear flip-flops or swimshoes when attending a swimming pool, or community shower areas and gyms. This is because, as I said earlier, verrucas are caused by a virus and there is a possibility of someone acquiring a verruca especially if they have damaged skin. By this, we mean skin that is cracked or cut. Verrucas are caused by a strain of the papillomavirus. This lives harmlessly on the skin, but if skin is damaged it can then penetrate the skin to form a verruca.
What treatments are available?
Once you have identified your verruca you have several options. The first option, if the verruca is not causing you any pain or discomfort, is to do nothing and simply let it go away on its own. Any mild discomfort can be alleviated by covering it with a cushioned pad of the type which is used for corns. However most people would prefer to have the verruca treated and eradicated. We must stress at this stage that if you are diabetic please do not self-treat. The usual treatment is one that contains Salicylic acid. The most popular over the counter treatment is one called Bazuka – yet this contains only 17% Salicylic acid whereas the treatment we use contains a wart-busting 60%!!!
Another treatment is Cryotherapy, which involves freezing the skin cells. You could also try a procedure called dry needling. This is a more invasive treatment which can be administered by a qualified podiatrist. It is done under local anaesthetic injected into the foot to render it numb. A hypodermic needle is then used to puncture the verruca. This treatment, as you may imagine, won’t be painful but it may not be for the faint-hearted!
As always, the advice is to take care of your feet. Keep them clean and dry and treat any cuts and abrasions immediately to avoid contracting a verruca.