What are Warts & Verrucas?
What are Warts & Verrucas?
Causes and Treatments for Warts & Verrucas
If you’ve got a little round bump growing on your knuckle or a round sore spot of hard skin on the bottom of your foot then you could have got yourself a wart or a verruca. These little growths won’t cause you any harm, but it’s always good to know what you’re dealing with and how you can treat it effectively. We’re here to take a look at what warts and verrucas are, why they’re there, and what you can do about them.
What are warts?
Warts are small growths that appear on your skin. Most people get a wart at some point, as they’re very common and they can be picked up easily. When you have a wart you’ll often notice it looks like a rough, firm growth on your skin and it may be itchy or painful. However, most people don’t experience any discomfort from their wart, and eventually, after a good few months, it will just go away.
What are the different types of warts?
There are lots of different types of warts, although they all have the same cause, and some may look different from others. Here’s a list of the most common types of warts and what they look like when you’ve got one.
As the name suggests, these are the most common types of warts. They look like small round-ish raised growths on your skin with a rough surface that looks a little bit like a cauliflower. These often appear on your knuckles, fingers and knees.
Genital warts are warts that appear on your penis, vagina or anus. They have the same cause as other warts but are commonly spread when you have sex with someone who has genital warts of their own. The skin to skin contact makes these warts really easy to share when you’re having some alone time with that special someone, I don’t know about you, but that’s a gift I’d prefer they kept to themselves!
Flat warts (plane warts)
Flat warts, which are also known as plane warts, are named this because they’re, well, flat! They look like round, flat yellow-ish discs and you’ll usually get more than one in the same area. These types of warts are particularly common in young children.
These are the types of warts that grow out from your skin in a long, thin shape or as a small skin flap. These types of warts are most common on your face and neck and are typically the same colour as the rest of your skin.
Periungual warts grow beneath and around your finger and toenails. They can look quite similar to common warts, but because of the effect they have on your nails they can be quite painful. They can also change the shape of your nails as they grow beneath them.
Mosaic warts look like small flat tiles that grow in clusters on your skin and they can be quite sore and uncomfortable. They’re often found on your hands and feet, which is why they’re sometimes mistaken for corns.
What are verrucas?
Verrucas are actually a type of wart, specifically one that grows on the bottom of your foot. Verrucas are also known as plantar warts, and they look like flat, round discs with small black dots in them. They can be quite painful when you walk on them, feeling like you’ve stepped on a needle or pin. Like all other warts, they’re harmless, but as they usually cause more discomfort than other warts you may want to treat them more quickly than warts on other parts of the body.
What causes warts and verrucas?
Warts and verrucas are all caused by a virus called HPV (human papilloma virus), which gets under your skin and causes those lovely little warty growths. The different types of warts are caused by different strains of HPV, which is why they all look slightly different and appear in different places. The virus usually won’t cause you any harm, it will just grow your wart, hang around for a bit, and then leave, but sometimes your warts and verrucas can keep coming back because the virus is still present, which is just lovely.
Are warts contagious?
Warts and verrucas are both contagious, as their cells contain the HPV virus. They can spread through skin-to-skin contact, especially if your skin is wet or if you have any cuts or damage on your skin. This is why verrucas normally spread when you’re at the pool, as the wet environment combined with lots of people walking around barefoot is their perfect breeding ground. Warts can also spread through contact with contaminated objects, like towels, shoes, or the floors in changing rooms, which are another very easy place to pick them up. You can even spread warts to other parts of your body, especially if you knock, scratch or damage the wart in any way. If the wart is bleeding or broken up it becomes much more contagious so be careful, especially if you’re shaving the area where your wart has grown.
Where can you get warts?
You can get warts anywhere on the body (and we mean anywhere, we’re looking at you genital warts!), but they’re most common on your hands, feet, and knees. Different types of warts are more common in different areas, such as verrucas that appear on the bottom of your feet or periungual warts that grow around your nails. Because they can appear in different places, some warts are more uncomfortable than others. For example, a wart on the palm of your hand will probably be more uncomfortable than a wart on your arm as it will typically come under more pressure.
How can you remove or treat warts?
You may not want or need to treat a wart, they’re mostly harmless and may not cause you any trouble, but if you find your wart painful or embarrassing you can pick up a treatment from your pharmacy. These treatments are available as creams, plasters, or sprays which can all work to remove your wart within a couple of months.
Creams use ingredients like salicylic acid or silver nitrate to soften the wart or remove the built-up skin so the wart can be removed. Many of these creams can form a protective layer over your wart to prevent the spread of the virus, which is perfect if your wart is in an area that could make it particularly easy to spread it. These treatments can take up to 3 months to get rid of your wart, which may seem like a long time but considering it can take over a year for some warts to disappear naturally, this can be a speedier alternative.
Freezing the wart
Wart freezing is often done by your doctor, but some products are available that can let you freeze your wart at home. This type of treatment is called cryotherapy and it works by freezing the wart or verruca down to its core, effectively killing the infected tissue so it will drop off within 2 weeks. Freezing treatments are available as sprays or pens with precision tip applicators, helping you to treat the wart without damaging the healthy skin in the area.
What are the best verruca treatments?
Verruca treatments are the same as wart treatments, so the best one for you will depend on your own circumstances. If you go swimming regularly then British Swimming, the national governing body for swimming and related sports, recommends that you should wear a waterproof plaster over the area whenever you swim. This will help to prevent the spread of infection when you’re at the pool. Some verruca treatments include medicated waterproof plasters to wear over your verruca, so in these circumstances, you might find that this is the best verruca treatment for you. If you’re unsure about which wart or verruca treatment to use you should always ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
When should I see a doctor?
You usually won’t need to see a doctor for warts or verrucas, treatments from your pharmacy will normally be enough to get rid of it. However, your doctor can freeze a wart so it will fall off within a couple of weeks, which some people may want to consider if their wart is particularly painful or making them feel embarrassed. If your warts are on your face, are particularly big or keep coming back you should see your doctor so they can determine what’s causing them and help to get rid of your wart. You should also see your doctor if your wart is bleeding or changes how it looks if you’re ever worried about any growth on your skin, it’s important to make a doctor's appointment right away. If your wart is on your genitals then you may want to see a doctor at a sexual health clinic instead of your regular doctor, but either way, it’s important to see a medical professional as soon as possible if you’re dealing with genital warts.
That’s all we’ve got for you on the subject of warts today, but don’t worry if you’ve still got some questions! Our pharmacy team is always available through our Ask A Pharmacist feature, so send them a message with your question and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can. It’s what we’re here for!