Verrucae are small lumps on the skin that most people have at some point in their life.

They’re actually at a type of wart and only appear on your feet.

A verruca looks like a flat, white growth on the sole of your foot. The reason they’re flat is because they’re usually found in areas of the foot, which have to withstand a lot of pressure, like the balls of your feet, and it’s this pressure that makes them flat.

In the centre of the verruca, there may be one or more tiny black dots under the skin. A verruca can appear on its own or in a cluster with several other verrucae.

In general, verrucae are largely symptomless, but they can cause sharp pain when you put weight on the affected area of your foot.

Causes

Verrucae are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus affects cells in the skin of the foot called epithelial cells, and this makes them over-grow and thicken, causing small rough lumps known as papules.

HPV isn’t highly contagious, but a wet environment can make the spread of infection easier. The virus can be spread through contact between bare feet and HPV-contaminated surfaces in changing rooms and shower cubicles. That’s why schoolchildren are very prone to verrucae.

People who are immunosuppressed are also more likely to get a verruca – mainly because they’re receiving immunosuppressants due to a particular condition, or are receiving treatment that can weaken their immune system such as chemotherapy.

Treatment  

In most cases there is a strong case for not treating verrucae as they generally don’t cause any symptoms and usually go away on their own – albeit that it may take months or even years.

In some cases treatment may even have adverse effects.

However, if you do want to treat your verrucae and get rid of it – if, for example, your verruca is painful, or you find it cosmetically unsightly and it’s causing then our pharmacists at Toome Pharmacy can give you advice about the best treatment for you.

Our pharmacists are all fully trained to provide you with advice about verrucae and, if necessary, to prescribe the necessary medication. If required, you’ll be prescribed verruca removal medication containing salicylic acid, which will burn your verruca off.

To use the salicylic acid, you first need to soak your feet in warm water and file any thickened skin before applying the medication.

You’ll need to repeat this treatment daily for at least 12 weeks, but you need to be very careful and make sure that you don’t apply the acid to the surrounding, healthy skin.

If the surrounding skin does become red, itchy or sore, stop the treatment until it settles.

During your consultation, our pharmacist may provide you with some additional advice about limiting your personal spread of verruca. Verrucae are contagious but the risk of transmission is thought to be relatively low.

Nevertheless, there are steps you can take to limit your personal spread. These include:

  • Avoiding scratching lesions
  • Keeping feet dry and changing your socks daily
  • Covering your verruca with a waterproof plaster while swimming
  • Wearing flip-flops or other appropriate footwear in changing rooms or communal showers

PIC: NHS UK