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Warts and verrucas - What are warts?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

Introduction

Warts are growths on your skin. They can sometimes be uncomfortable or sore, but they usually aren't serious. They often clear up on their own. If you want to get rid of them more quickly, there are good treatments available. Warts on your feet are often called verrucas.

We've brought together the best research about warts and weighed up the evidence about how to treat them. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

Warts are growths on your skin. Warts on your feet are often called verrucas.

Warts and verrucas are usually harmless, but you may not like the way they look. Some people find them embarrassing. Warts can be very sore if they grow under, or next to, your fingernails or toenails.[1][2] And verrucas on the soles of your feet can sometimes be painful.

warts-verruca_default.jpgWarts usually appear as flesh-coloured growths with a rough surface. Because of the bumpy surface, they're often described as looking like tiny cauliflowers. Warts are often hard. But warts can sometimes be dark and have a smooth surface.[1]

You may see small black dots in your wart or verruca. Some people think these look like seeds, but they're actually tiny blood vessels.[3] Warts may also interrupt the normal pattern of tiny ridges on your skin (for example, your fingerprints).[3]

Warts are caused by a virus that infects your skin.[3] There are dozens of different types of this virus. The type of wart you get depends on the type of virus that's infected your skin. It also depends on where the wart grows on your body.[3]

Older children and teenagers are most likely to get warts. As we get older, we tend to get a natural immunity to the virus that causes warts. That's why they often clear up on their own without treatment.[2]

Warts are nothing to worry about. You're more likely to get warts if your immune system is weak, but this isn't a problem for the vast majority of people with warts.[3] Things that weaken your immune system include:

Warts can spread directly from person to person, but this isn't common. You are more likely to pick up the virus that causes warts in shared washing areas and showers like those you find in swimming pools or gyms. This is much more likely if you have small cuts on your feet.[3]

Warts can be hard to treat, but very often they will clear up on their own. It's perfectly alright to leave a wart alone if it doesn't bother you.[2] But many people want treatment to get rid of warts. Most people don't like the way warts look, especially if they have them on their face or hands. And warts and verrucas can sometimes be painful.[2]

There are treatments you can buy yourself from a pharmacy. If these don't work, you can talk to your doctor about treatment.

Warts near your genitals need more careful treatment. You should see your doctor if you get warts in your genital area.To read more, see Genital warts.

Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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