Treating Verrucas

A verruca is a wart on the foot that is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).  Most people will experience infection with HPV at some time in their life.  Although they can occur at any age, they are more common in children and teenagers (in the UK this has been recorded at 5%). 

The look of verrucas can vary, with some being smooth, single verrucas while others grow in clusters forming a ‘tile-like’ pattern and are known as mosaic verrucas.  Each verruca has the presence of capillaries, giving them the appearance of black dots. 

Verrucas are spread by contact, either directly from person to person, or indirectly via surface contact.  Infection via surface contact is more likely if the skin is moist and in contact with roughened surfaces (e.g. conditions which are common in swimming pools, or communal washing areas). 

As verrucas are a virus, no one single treatment is 100% effective and different types of treatment may be combined.  Some verrucas may last for years and some may spontaneously clear up.  Verrucas in adults, in people with a long duration of infection, and in immunosuppressed clients are less likely to resolve spontaneously, and so would require some input from a Foot Health Practitioner. 

As a Foot Health Practitioner I would treat the verruca by debriding it with a scalpel, which removes the top layer of skin and would aim to get the capillaries within the verruca to bleed.  The bleeding will promote antibodies within the body, which should start to attack and heal the verruca virus from within.  I would then cover the verruca with zinc oxide tape.  The tape traps in epidermal water loss, encouraging the verruca to macerate.  The macerated area becomes a controlled wound, alerting the immune system to the fact that there is a virus hiding in the epidermis, with white blood cells gathering in the area to assist with the wound healing.

To encourage the healing of the verruca the zinc oxide tape should be changed daily, with the patient visiting me every few weeks for some more verruca debriding with a scalpel to get rid of the top layer of the verruca.