Most people will have the misfortune of suffering from a verruca at some point in their life, that point often being when they start taking communal swimming lessons as children. While a verruca usually isn’t a particularly painful problem, it can be a persistent one if you don’t treat it, and they can also spread like wildfire if you don’t take steps to prevent that from happening.
For expert advice on the best ways to treat verrucas, we spoke to Pareena Patel, pharmacy manager at Well Pharmacy.
What are verrucas and what causes them?
Verrucas are small, rough, raised and flattened lumps that tend to occur on the pressure areas of your feet. They may have tiny black dots in the centre of the hard skin, and they can be painful. They’re caused by different strains of infection called the human papillomavirus.
How do they transfer between people?
They spread to other people through contaminated surfaces or close skin contact and they’re more likely to spread if the skin is wet.
How do you treat verrucas?
There are loads of creams, plasters and sprays available at pharmacies. Most of these contain an ingredient called salicylic acid, which is a chemical that helps to soften the outer, harder layer. Before using the treatment you need to soften the verruca by soaking it in water and then rubbing it with an emery board or pumice stone to remove the excess hard skin. Then you apply the treatment and once it’s dry you might want to cover it with a plaster. You might need to use that treatment for about three months, and the most common treatment available is Bazuka gel.
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Are there more extreme treatments available if this don’t work?
If that doesn’t work there is also cryotherapy, which is where you freeze the verruca using liquid nitrogen. This is available from your GP, but this might not be covered by the NHS. It causes the verruca to fall off a few weeks later, but you might need a few sessions for this to happen.
There are some freezing treatments available over the counter that you can do yourself at home. However, they might not work as well because they contain different gases, not liquid nitrogen, so they don’t freeze the verruca as successfully.
Will verrucas go away without any treatment?
They can go away on their own, but it usually takes years. In children it can take about two years for them to go away by themselves, and in adults they can stay there for ten years.
How do you stop a verruca from spreading?
If you have got a verruca it’s definitely wise to cover it with a plaster or swimming sock, just so you’re not spreading it around the area. Try not to share any towels, socks or shoes, and wear flip-flops in communal areas like showers or around the side of the pool. And don’t scratch or pick at verrucas, because they’re more likely to spread. If you use an emery board or pumice stone on your verruca don’t then use it on other areas of your body, and make sure to wash your hands regularly.