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Viral Warts

Viral warts are areas of localised thickening of the skin caused by infection with the Human papilloma virus (HPV). When they affect the soles of the feet they are also known as verrucas.

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What causes viral warts?

They are caused by infection in the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis) with the HPV. Infection results in overgrowth of skin and thickening leading to a benign skin growth (the wart). Warts are caught by contact with the HPV, which can be skin to skin or from an object – a good example is the floors of public shower facilities in gyms or swimming pools where maceration of the skin makes it easier for the virus to enter through small breaks in the skin.
Warts are most commonly seen in children and most often affect the hands, face and feet. Most adults have developed immunity to the HPV during childhood, so adults are affected less commonly.

How long do viral warts last?

This differs from person to person, on average warts last around 9-18 months. However, in some patients they can persist for many years. Warts are a particular problem in patients who have a supressed immune system e.g. kidney transplant patients.

Can warts be cured?

There is no guarantee of cure but there are a number of treatments that are helpful in the treatment of viral warts. When considering treatment, it is important to consider the fact that viral warts will usually self-resolve without treatment and heal without scarring. The treatments can be time-consuming and sometimes painful and there is no guarantee of success. Even if successfully treated there is always the possibility that further warts will develop.

How are viral warts treated?

Salicylic acid

There are a number of different products that are available over the counter and your pharmacist can advise you. It is very important to prepare the wart before the treatment is applied by soaking in warm water for 10 mins and paring the wart with a nail file or pumice stone. Treatment should be carried out daily and you should commit to regular treatment for at least 12 weeks.


This is an effective treatment for viral warts but is painful and therefore not suitable for young children. Treatment needs to be carried out at regular intervals of 3-4 weeks and often 3-6 treatments are required to achieve maximum benefit

Zinc sulphate

There is some evidence that taking zinc supplements can be beneficial, the dose is calculated according to body weight and it is recommended that the supplements are taken for 12 weeks

Duct tape

Evidence is conflicting but this treatment isn’t painful and may be worth trying in children. It works by stripping the upper skin layers which host the virus. The duct tape should be applied and left for 6 days then removed, the wart should be soaked and pared as above and the tape reapplied and the process repeated every 6 days for 2-3 months

Surgical removal

Is an option and involves either scaping the wart off under local anaesthetic (curettage and cautery) or destructive laser therapy.

There are a number of other treatment options including special acid solutions

Whilst cure can’t be guaranteed we do have a range of effective treatment options for viral warts. Please book an appointment to discuss your options with one of our specialists.