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verrucas

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Verrucas

Introduction

As a kid chances are you had one of these little buggers on the bottom of your foot at least once. I remember my mum making me wear one of those uncomfortable and embarrassing rubber socks to swim in so the whole class knew I was “infected”. Luckily however, the older you get the less likely you are to encounter verrucas and also they no longer recommend those horrid socks. The most common member of the wart family, verrucas, like to shadily hang out in the corner of your local swimming pools and on the floor of your gym’s locker room. If you too visit the local pool or gym regularly and like to strut your stuff barefoot you may end up with one of these little warties. No worries, they’re not quite as infectious as once thought and won’t do any serious harm but they main be a little painful or uncomfortable. Treatment is not necessary and they will disappear on their own but it can help them heal faster.  Read on to find out more

Symptoms

  • White patches of rough or thickened skin often with a black spot in the middle
  • Flat
  • Painful or tender to the touch
    • Your body weight can cause verrucas to grow back into the skin causing the discomfort

Causes

  • Warts and verrucas are caused by a few variants of the human papilloma virus (HPV)
    •  HPV comes in hundreds of different variations and although some can cause cancer the types that cause warts and verrucas are harmless.
  • The HPV is usually transferred via the floor or an object that has been exposed to a verruca
    • Pools are particularly common places to pick up verrucas as the virus thrives in warm moist environments and the prolonged exposure of your skin to water makes it soft and more vulnerable
  • The virus will then work its way into the skin via a small crack, cut or graze
  • You may take a couple of weeks or even a month to show symptoms after you have contracted the virus

Treatment

Most verrucas will clear up on their own and if they aren’t painful are often better left to settle on their own.  However, this can take up to 2 years and if yours is painful or annoying you may wish to treat it. There are a bunch of over the counter products to help with verrucas. These treatments can be effective but verrucas are stubborn and they make take up to 12 weeks to work. Patience and persistence is therefore required. If after this time you are still in pain and the treatment hasn’t worked or your verruca comes back you could have a chat with your doctor. There are a couple of prescription medications or procedures that can be used to get rid of verrucas. The doctor will also be able to check that it is in fact a verruca and not in fact something more sinister.  You should also be really careful if you are diabetic or have any problems with your circulation and speak to your doctor before you start looking to treat them yourself.

    Over-the-Counter

    There are a range of over-the-counter products that come in the forms of sprays, gels and creams. Most of them contain the active ingredient salicylic acid which research has shown to be effective at clearing verrucas and warts. Best course of use:

    • Gently remove dead skin in the area with a pumice stone or emery board (probably not work doing without supervision if you are diabetic or have problems with your circulation)
      • Be sure not to use elsewhere on the body as verrucas are very contagious and you could spread the virus to other parts
    • Soak your foot in warm water for 5-10 minutes to soften skin
    • Apply to the affected area
      • Apply sparingly and carefully as salicylic acid will also damage healthy skin

    Medication

    If the above medicine does not work and they are painful your doctor may give you topical (a cream or gel to apply) medicine

    • Formaldehyde
      • This may stain skin brown
    • Gluteraldehyde
    • Poctophyllin
      • This can cause intense swelling and potentially a further infection

    They may also suggest Crytotherapy:

    • They freeze the verruca with liquid nitrogen
      • This may be sprayed on or dabbed on in liquid form
    • This intense cold will kill the verruca but will also damage some healthy skin causing some common short term side effects
      • Pain at the site of application
      • Blister
      • Scab for 7-10 days

    Prevention

    • Avoid direct contact with a verruca and if you touch one wash your hands well immediately after
    • Keep your feet clean and dry
    • Change your socks daily
    • Avoid going barefoot and wear flip flops or sandals
      • Especially in public places
    • Don’t pick at the verruca you could spread it to other parts of your foot or body

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