Verruca’s, what are they?

Jan 3, 2020

Verruca’s, what are they?

Also known as a plantar wart, a verruca is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). They often present on the sole of the foot, sometimes with overlying callus (hard skin). They can also present elsewhere on the feet such as toes or the back of the heel, although this is less common. The viral cells cause the infected area of skin to grow faster than the surrounding tissue, which is then pushed back into the foot due to pressure. The resultant lesion is effectively a plug of skin that has sealed itself off from the rest of the body. The little dark flecks that you see in a verruca aren’t ‘roots’ but instead are cauterised capillaries (blood vessels) that have been pulled up from the lower layer of the skin.


What causes a verruca?

There are many different strains of HPV that cause verruca’s. Individual strains are not usually identified when you have a verruca. This is because it currently does not affect which treatment options are available, or how effective they will be. There are over 100 known strains of HPV at present. However as we learn more about the virus it is likely that this figure will grow.


How do I get verruca’s?

It remains unclear exactly how verruca’s are spread. It is thought that a break in the skin (even if very small) and a temporarily impaired immune system is needed for the virus to infect skin cells (Vlahovic and Khan, 2016). Most adults (as high as 8 out of 10) will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lifetime. When exposed to HPV, people may or may not develop symptoms throughout their lifetime. At present screening for HPV in blood donations isn’t routinely carried out. This is because a viral particle requires access into a basal epithelial cell. The basal epithelial cells sit on top of the dermis and form the 1st and lowest of the 5 layers of the epidermis. This makes them difficult for the HPV to access.


How likely am I to catch a verruca at the local swimming pool?

The virus does not survive for very long on non-living surfaces. Infection usually requires skin to skin contact or with a very recently contaminated surface. It is therefore no more likely that you will contract verruca’s from swimming baths than any other areas your feet are exposed to.

Further Reading

For further information on treating verruca’s, please click the following link to see our most effective treatments:

If you wish to read more about HPV, verrucas and warts and the other conditions that this virus is linked to, follow the links below:


Vlahovic, T.C. and Khan, M.T. 2016. The Human Papillomavirus and Its Role in Plantar Warts: A Comprehensive Review of Diagnosis and Management. Clinics in Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, 33(3), pp. 337 – 353.