A verruca is a wart on the sole of your foot which can be painful when you’re standing or walking. Verrucas (verrucae) are also known as planter warts.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

What is a verruca?

A verruca is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). This virus can be spread through contact between bare feet and HPV-contaminated surfaces in changing rooms and shower cubicles.

Verrucas are one of the most common kinds of wart and can affect you at any age. However, warts, including verrucas, are more likely to appear when you’re a teenager or young adult.

Verrucas often go away naturally, especially with children, but this can take time. With children, one in two verrucas disappear in a year. With adults, it can take several years for a verruca to go away.

Verrucas can be treated with over-the-counter or prescribed verruca removal medications, by freezing (cryotherapy), or, very occasionally, with minor surgery.

How to tell if you have a verruca

A verruca looks like a flat, white growth on the sole of your foot. In the centre of the verruca, there may be one or more tiny black dots under the skin. A verruca can appear on its own or in a cluster with several other verrucas.

Verrucas are largely symptomless but can cause sharp foot pain when you put weight on the affected area of your foot.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

Diagnosis and tests for a verruca

Although a verruca can often disappear without treatment, this can take time.

If you’re worried about a verruca, talk to a pharmacist. They’ll advise you on how to get rid of verrucas and recommend over-the-counter medication for verruca removal.

If over-the-counter medication fails to treat your verruca, see your GP. You should also see your GP if you have a verruca that’s:

  • Causing you considerable pain or discomfort
  • Bleeding
  • Spreading or getting bigger

Your GP will examine your verruca and check your feet for other verrucas. Your GP may prescribe a verruca removal treatment or refer you for further treatment, such as cryotherapy. Very occasionally, your GP will refer you to a dermatologist, a consultant specialising in skin conditions.

Common treatments for a verruca

To reduce your risk of catching a verruca, avoid going barefoot in public places.

If you have a verruca on your foot, to prevent spreading the virus, you should:

  • Avoid touching, picking or scratching your verruca
  • Wear a verruca sock or waterproof plaster over your verruca when swimming
  • Wear flip flops when using communal showers and changing rooms
  • Only wear your own shoes and socks

Your GP may prescribe verruca removal medication containing salicylic acid to burn away your verruca. Alternatively, your GP may recommend cryotherapy, which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze off warts, including verrucas. In some cases, your GP may suggest combining salicylic acid medication with cryotherapy.

If medication and/or cryotherapy fails to remove your verruca, your GP may suggest minor surgery. This might involve having your verruca lasered off, scraped away (curettage) or treated with light therapy (photodynamic therapy).

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