If a verruca is not causing any pain or disability should it be treated at all?

Most doctors in the UK now won’t treat a verruca on the NHS as, unless painful, it is considered a cosmetic problem which may get better spontaneously without any intervention at all.

A verruca is a wart found on the feet, caused by a strain of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), if you do a quick internet search you may come to the conclusion that it is a highly contagious virus that is rife in gym changing rooms, swimming pools etc & that it can easily be picked up by walking around barefoot.

If this was the case we would be inundated with people from the same place coming for treatment, in fact in our clinics we rarely see members of the same family with warts or verrucas! It may be that they are not as contagious as once thought (my view), or it may be that some people have better immune systems & have good immunity to HPV. It will be interesting to see if the introduction of HPV vaccination schemes for cervical cancer have any effect on reducing skin warts (although caused by a different strain of HPV).

Another internet search will find lots of different treatments for verrucas none of which are guaranteed to work, in fact just keeping them covered with duct tape is one way which has
had some success. See:


One theory is that sometimes the treatment causes irritation & inflammation of the area which switches on the immune system & triggers an immune response & then verruca starts to get better.

Some treatments are more aggressive – e.g. freezing with liquid nitrogen or surgical removal under local anaesthetic, both of which may be very painful, inconvenient, as the foot will need to be kept covered & dry & may cause permanent scarring. (Still no guarantee of success).

A recent study showed that conservative treatment using over the counter salicylic acid preparations (Bazooka/ Salactol etc) & keeping the lesions covered with a waterproof dressing -blister plasters are ideal, repeating daily, (similar to the duct tape method but prettier!), had similar success as freezing with liquid nitrogen at the end of the 12 week study.

I personally feel that unless the verruca is really causing pain or stopping you from doing anything it would be unethical to cause more pain & disability with aggressive treatment.

My advice would be to seek a professional opinion from a podiatrist, have treatment to remove overlying skin, discuss all treatment options fully & understand what is involved, & be prepared to follow the treatment through, before making a decision.

Don’t forget to boost your immunity too with good healthy food containing antioxidants & zinc & get plenty of sleep.