When I was at school I fell in with a very sporty crowd of girls. Unfortunately for me I did not poses a huge amount of natural athletic flare, but being quite a diligent pupil I applied myself to sports and gradually worked my way up the rankings of the various teams. I don’t think I ever made the ‘A’ team of anything unless a rogue illness had swept through the school and I was the only one who was left standing…however I thoroughly enjoyed my sporty school days and loved the sense of being part of something.
When it came to whole school events such as sports-day or the swimming gala, I was in my competitive element. However other than nearly downing during the butterfly, my overwhelming memory of school swimming galas is of poor kids hobbling round with one foot clad in an off white plastic verruca sock. I always felt a bit mortified for these kids and extremely grateful that my mother clearly did not inspect the soles of my feet as vigorously as other parents appeared to.
Verruca’s are essentially just the name given to warts on the feet. Warts come in all shapes and sizes. The common wart is slightly raised and roughened. Verruca’s, or plantar warts, are often hard and painful lumps with tiny black specks in them.They are made more uncomfortable by the fact you put pressure on them with every step.
HPV or the human papilloma virus causes the vast majority of warts. Around 3-4% of us will have a wart at any one time, and this figure is certainly higher in children. Apparently they are also more common in the north of the UK and affect people of European ancestry twice as much as other ethnic groups…. there you go, a couple of after dinner facts!
Warts are contagious and commonly passed from one person to another. They can be caught directly or indirectly i.e. you touch something after someone with a wart has. So don’t share a towel or flannel with someone who has a wart. The virus is more likely to transmit from rough surfaces to soft soaked skin, which is why the nonslip surfaces around swimming pools or communal washing areas are such hot beds for the wart virus.
So what are the treatment options for warts? All warts will disappear on their own given time. Approximately 20% will go by 2 months, 30% by 3 months and almost 80% by 2 years down the line. So the best advice is often to leave well alone and let Mother Nature do the rest. However some warts can be a real nuisance so treatment may be worth considering. Unfortunately none of them are 100% successful.
The shops are full of various expensive options for you to purchase but here is a quick tour of what’s what.
- Salicylic Acid: this destroys the surface of the skin where the virus is living. Its thought that around ⅔ to ¾ of verrucas & warts with have gone after 12 weeks, of treatment. This is the best option for DIY treatment and pretty much as good as all the other therapies available. Lots of brands include this active ingredient, but not all, so look closely at the small print to make sure you are buying the right stuff.
- Your GP can prescribe this for you at a higher strength than you can buy over the counter, but there is no clear evidence suggesting stronger treatments are more effective.
- Saliciylic acid comes as a paint, gel, liquid or ointment. It’s worth popping some petroleum jelly on the surrounding healthy skin to protect it from any splashes before use. Always soak the wart first and try to remove as much of the hard top with an emery board prior to applying the treatment.
- Cryotherapy: this is where your doctor or nurse uses a cold blast of liquid nitrogen to destroy the wart cells. Each treatment only lasts approx. 10-30 seconds, but may have to repeated multiple times. Although speedy the therapy can be painful and leave blistering, so isn’t ideal for children.
- Cautery: this is surgical removal of the wart and is very occasionally used for stubborn lesions particularly those affecting the face. It involves a small operation and may cause scarring.
- Rare treatments: there are a few other treatments that can be useful for wart removal but are only used in unusual and very severe circumstances. `These include injecting potent drugs into the wart, using various types of laser treatment and using strong medications usually reserved for severe acne. None of these are suitable for most of us with simple verrucas.
I would hate to leave without mentioning the good old verruca sock again. Yes you can still don one should you wish before a dip in the local pool, however a more discreet plaster will probably suffice and spare the person after you from developing their very own warty foot!