Verrucas are warts that occur on the soles of the feet. Also called plantar warts, they are the same as warts on any other part of the body. However, they may have a flatter appearance due to the pressure exerted on them during walking.
Plantar warts are caused by certain types of human papilloma virus (HPV). There are over 100 different types of HPV. Only a few will cause plantar warts. These types of HPV are different from the ones associated with genital warts and cervical cancer.
These specific HPV types cause an extra amount of keratin, which is a hard protein, to develop in the top skin layer (epidermis). This excess keratin produces the rough, thick texture of a verruca.
Verrucas are contagious, and close skin-to-skin contact may pass on the infection. It can also be transmitted indirectly from contaminated objects or surfaces, for example the floor or tiles surrounding a swimming pool. If you have skin tears, cuts or lesions, you are more likely to become infected as it’s easier for the virus to enter your body.
A verruca usually doesn’t cause any symptoms, but it can lead to some discomfort or pain in some individuals. Generally, people find them more unsightly than painful.
Most plantar warts or verrucas self-resolve. However, it can typically take two years or even longer before they disappear. Usually, treatment is only required when the wart is causing pain or discomfort.
Allowing the warts to self-resolve is often the best option, especially in children, as the treatment can be time-consuming, painful and may cause side effects. All verruca treatments may involve minor side effects, most commonly some skin irritation. That’s especially the case of those treatments requiring the application of a chemical such as salicylic acid and cryotherapy.
Many treatments are available for plantar warts. However, it’s important to know that no single treatment is 100 per cent effective. In individuals with a weakened immune system, it may take more time to get rid of the verruca.
Salicylic acid: Among the many topical treatments available, the most effective are the ones containing salicylic acid. In order to improve the effectiveness of salicylic acid, it’s important to file down the wart with a disposable foot file before applying the treatment. Soaking the verruca in warm water for at least 5 minutes will soften it and improve the efficacy of treatment, which should applied daily, for at least 10 -12 weeks. There are many different strengths of salicylic acid available in pharmacies. A 50% salicylic acid preparation is generally sufficient.
Cryotherapy: A trained nurse, doctor or podiatrist can apply liquid nitrogen to the verruca in order to freeze and destroy the affected skin cells. Typically, it may take more than one application for the verruca to resolve. However some plantar warts may resist even after three applications.
Home remedies for plantar warts or verrucas
Duct tape: In a 2002 research article, involving 51 patients and published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (USA), it was suggested that duct tape is 85 per cent effective in removing verrucas.
Cut a small piece of duct tape and stick it on the verruca. Leave it on for six days and on the seventh day, remove the duct tape, soak the verruca to soften it, and gently rub away any dead cells with a disposable foot file. Leave the duct tape OFF overnight, then repeat the cycle. Results may be seen after about four weeks, but you can continue the treatment for up to eight weeks.
Oils: Thuja oil, lemon oil and tea tree oil have also been claimed to be effective in removing verrucas. However, no research trials have been done to back these claims.