Warts and Verrucas

Warts are small, non-cancerous growths that appear on the skin, caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).

While harmless, warts are often rough and unsightly, and commonly develop on the hands. Warts that develop on the sole of the foot are called verrucas. Warts and verrucas can appear on their own or in clusters and although they are not harmful in any way, they are contagious, and so most people want to take verruca and wart removal action, particularly if they are prominent and/or embarrassing.

Warts are small, non-cancerous growths caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV)

The four types of warts are the common wart, plantar wart (verruca), plane wart and genital wart

As they are contagious you should avoid touching warts

Treatment is by freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) and HPV vaccination can be used where patients have recurrent persistent genital warts

What causes Warts and Verrucas?

There are over 100 strains of HPV, and of these, roughly 60 cause warts on the hands or feet.

Common in school-age children, warts can also affect otherwise healthy adults. There are four primary types of wart – the common wart, plantar wart (verruca), plane wart and genital wart. Common warts are firm, rough and raised, often resembling a cauliflower, while plan warts are normally round, smooth and yellow in colour. Verrucas are normally found on the soles of the feet, and are flat and course in nature. They may have one or more black dots in them, which are blocked blood vessels.

What are the symptoms of Warts and Verrucas?

Warts are raised from the skin, and verrucas can often be painful to the touch as pressure is placed on them with each step.

Generally speaking, warts tend to be round or oval, are firm and raised, and have a rough surface. They can appear in a cluster or individually, and typically range from less than 1mm to over 1cm across in size. Verrucas are flat as opposed to raised, and the black dot often helps to differentiate it from other types of skin issues such as skin tags or moles.

Images of Warts and Verrucas

These images are kindly provided by DermNetNZ.org for non-commercial use, for the purpose of education and information. The images have not been modified and DermNetNZ do not endorse The London Skin and Hair Clinic. You can find a copy of the license at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/nz/.

Can you prevent Warts and Verrucas?

There are a number of things you can do to prevent catching and spreading both warts and verrucas.

As they are contagious, you should avoid touching other people’s warts, and keep your own warts and verrucas covered with a plaster. You should avoid sharing things like socks and towels, and avoid being barefoot in public areas such as swimming pools.

What is available in terms of Wart and Verruca treatment?

While wart and verruca removal is not necessary, most people opt to do so for personal reasons.

During the period of wart and verruca treatment, you should avoid picking and scratching at them, as this can cause infection. Warts and verrucas can be burned or in effect “frozen” off using liquid nitrogen during a process known as cryotherapy, or treated with either a prescription or over-the-counter medication. There are gels, creams and plasters that contain dimethyl ether propane, enabling people to carry out freezing wart removal treatments at home.

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