Warts and verrucae are caused by a virus which infects the skin and surrounds itself with a tough shell of skin, the top of which shows up as a lesion.
Treatment involves breaking down this shell, at which point the unprotected virus will be killed and disappear. Doctors/chiropodists do this by burning away the skin quickly. Many of the treatments described below wear the skin away over a longer period, but painlessly. Because the treatments wear away skin, care must be taken to protect surrounding healthy skin.
Warts are most common in children aged 12-16 years.
Verrucae appear differently because they appear on the sole of the foot, so the body’s weight squashes them into the skin – they are different to corns and calluses in that they are painful when pressed, and when pared small bleeding points are seen (corns and calluses are just white layers of skin – they have no capillaries in them).
The warts you can treat may occur singly or as several lesions on palms and backs of hands and around fingernails (especially in those who bite their nails). Warts disappear if left alone for 6 months – 2 years but can spread in the meantime. Disappearance is speeded up using the products recommended below.

 

Treatment:

 

Tell the healthcare advisor if you have diabetes as you should not treat a wart or verruca yourself. If you notice a wart or verruca visit your GP or local diabetic clinic for advice.
Only treat warts on the hands and feet, and preferably only if you can see them. A spot on the skin changing in colour or size, even if it looks like a wart should be carefully checked by your GP. Take care with bleeding or itching warts.

 

If you have already tried to treat the wart/verruca unsuccessfully you should discuss with the healthcare advisor at your local pharmacy; the treatment used, how the treatment was carried out and for how long.
Most preparations available for the treatment of warts and verrucae contain salicylic acid. They are generally convenient and easy to use.
The affected area should be soaked for 2-3 minutes in warm water, then dried thoroughly with a towel (kept for this purpose only!). One or two drops of the gel/solution are applied carefully and allowed to dry; surrounding skin may be protected with a small amount of VASELINE before applying the treatment. Once a week, use an emery board or pumice stone, (again kept only for this purpose), to remove dead layer of skin. Some warts disappear quickly although some can take quite a number of weeks. Perseverance is the key.

 

Another more recent product called Wartner works by releasing an extremely cold vapour over the surface of the wart or verruca. This kills the cells of the wart by freezing them. Usually a single application is sufficient and the wart will disappear or fall off after about 10 days. Some more stubborn warts may require a second or even third application. This product can be used in conjunction with the acid lotion products and this combination is ideal for the tougher warts.

Practical Points:

 

  • Warts on the face, anogenital region or anywhere else on the body other than the hands or feet should NEVER be treated with any of the over the counter products. They may cause burns to sensitive skin. These types of warts should be treated under medical supervision.
  • Take the time to ensure that you understand fully the method required in the use of the chosen treatment.
  • Remember, the time scale involved in getting rid of a wart or verruca is approximately 12 weeks, so persevere!