Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Let's talk verrucae (plantar warts)

Verruca and plantar wart are the same thing with the former English and the latter the Latin name. A human papilloma virus invades the cells of the growing epidermis and causes a local hypertrophy (benign thickness) of the skin. A wart may present as a circumscribed lesion with a cauliflower appearance and black or brown pepper pot like spots within. There is infinite variation in the shape and size of warts but often they appear as a single raised growth or irregular shaped mass. Warts occur anywhere and in people of any age, but are most common in the young.

What is seen is deceptive as the bulk of infected tissue lies beneath the skin surface and invariably involves local blood vessels and nerve tissue. Plantar warts can be extremely painful with pain often reported with the first few steps in the morning. Painful areas on the foot can be difficult to diagnose, warts are frequently mistaken for corns or a foreign body, such as a splinter of glass, a hair, or a bristle. It is very important to identify a pigmented mole (melanoma) at the earliest and if in any doubt, see your doctor or foot physician for confirmation.

Warts may disappear spontaneously with or without treatment. Veruccae can be self-treated (see your pharmacist), but persistent and painful lesions need prescribed care from your doctor or podiatrist. Treatments include chemical, cold or electrical cautery agents and these are sometimes administered under local anaesthesia.

Although warts can be comparatively minor transient lesions they are contagious so it is prudent to take precautions. Viral infections are picked up by physical contact and can live outside the body especially in wet conditions e.g. changing room floors.

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