Warts are small growths on the skin caused by an infection with a virus known as the human papilloma virus (HPV). Warts vary in appearance but usually appear as small, rough lumps that develop on the hands, fingers, knees and feet. Warts can appear anywhere on the body. Verrucas are warts that usually develop on the soles of the feet.
- Round or oval shaped
- Firm & raised
- Common on fingers, knuckles & knees
- Between 1mm-10mm in diameter
- White, often with a black dot in the middle
- Sometimes painful
- Smooth, round & flat-topped
- 2-4mm in diameter
- Common on hands, face, legs & in children
- Long & slender
- Common on neck, face & nostrils
- Rough surface
- Develop under & around fingernails & toenails
- May affect shape of nail
- Can be painful
- Grow in clusters
- Form ‘tile-like’ (mosaic) pattern
- Occur on feet & palms of hands
What causes warts & verrucas?
Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus is present in the skin of the wart and gets passed through skin-to-skin contact, or transmitted by indirect contact from walking on an infected surface or touching a contaminated object. Warts remain contagious when they are on your skin.
- People are more vulnerable to infection if their skin is wet or soft or they have scratches or cuts on the soles of their feet.
- Warts can also spread to other parts of the body if scratched or knocked, or if you bite your nails or shave your face or legs.
How are warts treated?
Warts will usually clear up without treatment but it can take up to two years to clear the HPV virus from your system.
There are many over-the-counter creams, gels, paints and medicated plasters suitable for treating warts. Most of these contain an active ingredient called salicylic acid. This usually clears the art within 12 weeks. The acid, however, also destroys healthy skin, so you need to protect your skin before applying treatment. Salicylic-acid-based treatments are not suitable for warts on the face.
Warts can also be ‘frozen’ off using cryotherapy liquid nitrogen which gets sprayed onto the wart to destroy the affected skin cells. A blister then forms followed by a scab which falls off between a week and 10 days later. The treatment may have to be repeated for large warts.
Cryotherapy is carried out at GP surgeries, skincare clinics, plus there are some over-the-counter sprays (dimethyl-ether/propane) for home use.
Prescription only treatments are also available to treat warts. These contain chemicals including: formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde and podophyllin which are dabbed on the warts to kill the affected skin cells.
Alternative Remedies & Self-help
- Place duct tape over the wart and remove this six days later. Soak the wart in water then use an emery board or pumice stone to remove rough areas. Leave the wart uncovered overnight, then repeat the duct tape treatment. Repeat the process for up to two months. It’s unclear whether this method is effective.
- Do not touch other people’s warts, or share towels, shoes or other personal items with someone who has a wart.
- Wear flip-flops in shared areas such as showers of swimming pool changing rooms.
- If you have a wart or a verruca, do not scratch or pick it because this can spread the infection to other parts of your body.
- If taking part in communal activities such as swimming - cover up your wart or verruca with a waterproof plaster or special sock.