In Northern Ireland, treatment for verrucas is now available in your local Community Pharmacy, under the Minor Ailments Scheme.
Whether you're planning a trip to your local swimming pool, or looking forwards to heading away on holiday, getting rid of that annoying verruca will help put your mind at ease.
What are verrucas?
Verrucas can be unsightly, but (for most people) they are harmless. They are warts on the soles of your feet or toes.
A virus known as HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is responsible for verrucas, and there are many different strains of this virus. Verrucas are usually white. Sometimes a blood vessel can be seen in the centre, which causes them to look like a black dot.
What's the difference between a verruca and a wart?
They're essentially the same thing. Warts are most commonly found on the hands, knees and feet. A wart on the sole of your foot is called a verruca.
The obvious difference between a verruca and a wart is that a verruca is not raised from the skins surface. Pressure from the weight of your body can cause the verruca to grow back into the skin which can, on occasion, be painful.
How do I get a verruca?
Verrucas are contagious. They can be passed by skin-to-skin contact, or by towels, floors, shower areas, shoes and socks. If your skin is wet, or you have any cuts or grazes you are more likely to pick up the virus.
To prevent catching a verruca or passing the virus to others, avoid sharing towels. If you're at the swimming pool or using public shower, wear flip-flops to protect your feet.
If you have a verruca, wear a verruca sock or cover it up with a waterproof plaster when swimming.
Try not to scratch or pick at it - if you rupture the verruca it is more likely to spread the virus to other parts of your skin.
How are verrucas treated?
Verrucas can disappear themselves within two years, however, treatments are available from your pharmacy to speed up the process. The main types of treatment are salicylic acid based products (e.g. Bazuka Treatment Gel) and cryotherapy (e.g. Actifreeze).
Bazuka Gel can take about 12 weeks to get rid of the verruca, and requires daily application. The treatment will also affect healthy skin - so it is important to apply with care - or use a corn plaster or Vaseline - to protect the healthy skin. The surface of the verruca should be filed with an emery board and then soaked in water for about 5 minutes to soften the skin before applying the gel.
Actifreeze freezes the verruca, and usually (in about 10-14 days) the verruca will drop off - leaving healthy skin underneath. One treatment can be sufficient to get rid of the verruca; however, it may take a few applications. It can sometimes be painful so it should be used with caution - particularly on young children.
Corns and calluses can be mistaken for verrucas so it's always worthwhile asking your pharmacist or GP for advice. If a verruca bleeds, starts to spread or change in appearance, or is causing you pain and distress - you should see your GP.
About the Minor Ailments Scheme:
If you have a medical concern or query, you should speak to your pharmacist before using any treatments. Your local pharmacist is a highly qualified healthcare professional, and he/she is available to give their advice, without you needing to make an appointment. In many cases, they'll be able to diagnose a condition, and provide treatment for it - there and then.
The Minor Ailments Service that is available through Community Pharmacies in Northern Ireland encourages the patient to self-treat minor ailments.
It makes the local Community Pharmacy the first point of call for health advice, and it allows the pharmacist greater opportunity to make use of their professional skills.
Most importantly, it improves the patient's access to treatment - without the need of an appointment. This offers an alternative to a GP consultation for a number of minor conditions, allowing GPs more time for patients with more complex medical needs. This in turn benefits other parts of the healthcare service - particularly Emergency Departments and Out-Of-Hours medical services.