Warts & verrucas

Causes & treatments

Warts. We’re all likely to get them at some point in our lives but that doesn’t make them any less of an inconvenience. Here’s what you need to know about why they appear and the treatment options available to help keep them at bay.

What are warts & what causes them?

Warts are small, hard growths that can appear anywhere on the skin but are most commonly seen on the hands, knees and feet (verruca). They are caused by a virus called human papilloma virus (HPV). Verrucas are a form of wart that develop on the soles of the feet and are by far the most testing come sandal season.

Some different types of warts are:

Common warts – these are firm and raised with a rough surface that resembles a cauliflower (common on knuckles, knees, and fingers)

Flat warts – usually round, flat topped, and can be yellow (common on the backs of hands)

Filiform warts – usually long and slender (common on the face and neck)

Mosaic warts – occur when different types of warts combine on the hands and feet

Verrucas (also known as a plantar wart) – a type of wart found on the sole of the foot. They are usually made up of a hard circle of skin with a black dot in the centre.

foot with veruccas

Managing prevention and treatment options for warts

Warts aren’t harmful and will usually go on their own, but care must be taken so they don’t spread (see our prevention tips below). If treatment is needed, say if a verruca is painful or you have a particularly persistent wart, there are plasters, creams and sprays you may want to consider.

A particularly effective verruca treatment is salicylic acid gel, which helps to stop the infection from spreading and seals the wart with a water-resistant, protective barrier. Or cryotherapy, where your doctor will freeze the wart and wait for up to 14 days for it to fall off. If you’re unsure, chat to a Boots pharmacist about the options available.

Here are some tips on how to prevent warts:

- Avoid contact with other people’s warts or verrucas and don’t share towels and shoes 

- Practice good foot hygiene – keep your feet clean and dry and change your socks every day 

- Don’t forget those protective shoes at the swimming pool – warts spread through contaminated floors and infections are more likely when the skin is wet

- Look after your skin – if a wart is damaged (from shaving, for example) it can bleed, making it easier for the virus to spread to other parts of the body

If you are unsure about whether you have a wart or what type of wart it is, speak to a Boots pharmacist who will be happy to help.