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Warts and verrucas: Let's talk verruca treatment and wart treatment

Close up of a doctor administering wart treatment
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Noticed a new lump, bump or cluster on your feet or hands? It’s probably a harmless wart or verruca that will go away on its own. However, if it’s bothering you, you can pop to your local LloydsPharmacy to get hold of some over-the-counter treatment.

Please note: if you’ve developed growths on your genitals, you’ll need to go to a sexual health clinic, as these types of warts require a specific type of treatment.

What do warts look like and where do they grow?

Common warts are firm, raised and rough – they’re often said to have the appearance of a cauliflower. They tend to be the same colour as your skin, but they may be darker or slightly grey. This type of wart normally develops on the hands, so you might notice them on your palms, knuckles or fingers. They also grow on the knees.

Plane warts or flat warts are round and smooth. They are raised but have a flat top, and are sometimes yellow in colour. This type of wart tends to grow on the face, the backs of the hands and the legs.

Mosaic warts are clusters of warts spread over the feet or hands.

What do verrucas look like?

Verrucas, or plantar warts, grow on the soles of your feet. They’re quite distinct from the warts listed above as they have tiny black dots in the centre. They also tend to be painful when you put weight on them – the sensation is like standing on a needle.

Treatment for warts and verrucas

If you have a wart or verruca, your pharmacist can help. Usually, you’ll only need to see your GP if the wart:

  • Is on your face
  • Is very big or painful
  • Bleeds
  • Changes in appearance
  • Keeps coming back
  • Is causing you a lot of worry

Remember, if the wart is on your genitals, it’s best to go to a sexual health clinic.

Pharmacy treatment for warts and verrucas

Wart treatment usually involves applying salicylic acid to the growth to soften the hard outer layer. The treatment might come as a cream or gel, or as a medicated plaster that sticks to your skin. These treatments are not suitable to use on the face, as the salicylic acid can cause irritation and scarring.

Before using wart treatment, it can be helpful to soften the wart by soaking it in water and rubbing it with an emery board or pumice stone – this will remove the hardest skin and allow the treatment to penetrate more deeply.

Most over-the-counter wart treatments have to be used for several months, and there’s not always a guarantee that they’ll work.

Prescription treatment for warts and verrucas

If you need to see a GP for your wart or verruca, they might be able to offer some prescription treatments, or refer you to a dermatologist for specialist care.

One treatment option is cryotherapy – this is where the wart is frozen using liquid nitrogen. This process has to be repeated every few weeks until the wart falls off. However, as with salicylic acid products, there’s no guarantee it will work. It can also be painful and leave scarring.

Another thing to consider is that cryotherapy for warts isn’t always available on the NHS, which means you might have to pay to have it done privately.

Other options for verrucas and warts include surgery and laser therapy, which are normally done under local anaesthetic. Depending on the severity of your warts, you might need to combine this type of procedure with the use of topical treatments.

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How can I avoid getting warts and verrucas in the future?

It’s not always easy to avoid getting a wart, as they’re spread through close skin contact. However, there are a few precautions you can take, including the following:

  • Always wear flip-flops in communal showers or around pools – warts are more easily spread when the skin is wet
  • Avoid sharing towels, shoes and socks
  • Avoid touching warts on another person’s body

If you develop a wart, be careful not to spread it to other people – always wash your hands after touching it, and cover it with a plaster when you go swimming.

References:

www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/healthy-skin/warts-and-verrucas
www.nhs.uk/conditions/warts-and-verrucas