Warts: Understanding Verruca Vulgaris (common warts)

Warts affect many people. Verruca Vulgaris is the correct term for the condition responsible for common warts, which are often found on the hands and feet (although they can spread to any region).

What is Verruca Vulgaris?

Verruca Vulgaris (common warts) presents as hardening of the skin and the formation of benign growths or nodules commonly called warts. The condition is caused by the HPV (human papillomavirus) virus.

Warts caused by Verruca Vulgaris are not dangerous and most typically appear on the hands and feet, although any area can be affected. While the condition isn’t threatening or harmful, it may be frustrating to live with. Untreated warts can take years to resolve themselves – especially in adults. The condition is contagious, anyone can contract it, although it largely affects children and young adults.

What causes warts?

A common viral infection affecting the outer layer of the skin. There are over 100 different sub-strains of HPV. Most people will encounter at least one strain during their lifetime. Warts and lesions can be transferred from one infected person to another, via direct or indirect touch.

This is especially true in cases where there may be a break in the skin barrier, or any other type of disruption in the epithelial (outer) layer of the skin. The HPV virus generally populates on the outer layer of the skin, spreading warts, but particles of the virus can be found in the basal layers of the skin, too.

Sharing clothing or touching surfaces that are infected will spread the virus. Touching the affected skin of individuals with warts will also spread the virus.

What are the symptoms of Verruca Vulgaris?

Warts are nodules which appear on the skin in the area affected by the virus. They’re usually the same colour as the surrounding skin, or slightly darker. Warts are very common on the hands but can appear on any area of the skin. While many people will get warts, not everyone reacts to the virus in the same way. Some people never get any warts, the symptoms are dormant despite the virus’ presence.

The warts are often raised above the skin, rough around the edges, and soft in the centre. Warts on the hands may be larger in size, and often have a black spot in the centre.

Although predominantly harmless, in rare cases, warts that persist over a prolonged period can develop into verrucous carcinomas, meaning they’re cancerous.

How is Verruca Vulgaris diagnosed?

Dr Khoza diagnosis Verruca Vulgaris (warts) by examining the skin and the lesions. Dr Khoza will also ask you about your medical history, family history, and perform a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

How are warts treated?

There is no medical treatment that will kill the virus, however, warts can be treated as and when they appear. The following treatments have been effective in combating the symptoms of Verruca Vulgaris:

  • Occlusal/Duofilm (17% Salicylic Acid liquid): This is applied at home, daily. The wart will soften, it can then be exfoliated away over time. It is important to ensure this liquid does not come into contact with healthy skin.
  • Liquid Nitrogen: This treatment is performed in our rooms. It freezes off the wart. A red blister may appear in its place which will eventually heal.
  • Cantharidin treatments: A very technical procedure which is performed in our rooms. A blister will form in the place of the wart. Learn more here.

TCA (trichloroacetic acid): This treatment causes the layers of the wart to peel away. Over time, there is nothing left.

Managing Verruca Vulgaris

50% of warts on the skins of children, disappear within 6 months. In 2 years, we typically see 90% of warts disappearing completely. In adults, warts tend to linger for longer, while treating warts may stimulate the immune system into combating the condition. For an effective treatment to control the symptoms of Verruca Vulgaris, contact our office and book an appointment with Dr Khoza: 031 581 2543