Warts and verrucas – both can be unpleasant, uncomfortable and unsightly, but what are they, and is it possible to get rid of them? Both warts and verrucas are common skin conditions that can cause discomfort and are considered unsightly. Although they share similarities, there are slight differences between the two.

Here’s everything you need to know, including whether it’s possible to tell the difference between them…

Types Of Warts And Verrucas

There are several different types of warts and verrucas, which are easily caught and transferred from person to person. Warts are benign growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They can appear on various parts of the body, such as the hands, feet, face, and genital area. Warts often have a rough texture and can be raised or flat. They may appear as small, round bumps or clusters and can range in colour from flesh-toned to darker shades. Warts are contagious and can spread through direct contact or by touching surfaces that an infected person has touched.

On the other hand, verrucas, also known as plantar warts, are a specific type of wart that occurs on the soles of the feet. They are typically found on weight-bearing areas, such as the heels or balls of the feet. Verrucas can be distinguished by their location and characteristic appearance. They often have a hard, thickened skin layer covering them, and they may cause pain or discomfort while walking or standing.

Both warts and verrucas are caused by HPV, but different strains of the virus are responsible for their development. They can be contracted through breaks in the skin or in moist environments like public swimming pools or locker rooms. Certain factors, such as a weakened immune system or prolonged exposure to the virus, can increase the risk of developing warts or verrucas.

Here are some of the most common types:

Common Wart

A common wart is a firm, round, raised growth. It will have a rough surface, and they are usually white or light brown. They are usually a few millimetres across in diameter, and are often found on the hands or knees. Also known as a verruca vulgaris, the common wart can range in size from a few millimetres to about one centimetre in diameter. The colour of a common wart can vary, but it often matches the surrounding skin tone or may have a slightly darker shade. The surface of the wart is usually rough and can be characterised by tiny, grainy projections.

Common warts commonly occur on the hands, particularly on the fingers, knuckles, or around the nails. They can also develop on other areas of the body, such as the knees, elbows, and face. The growth may be solitary or form in clusters, known as mosaic warts.

These warts are often painless, although they may become tender or sensitive if located in areas that experience friction or pressure. Sometimes, small black dots may be visible on the surface of the wart. These are called ‘wart seeds’ or thrombosed capillaries, which are clotted blood vessels.

Common warts are contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact or by touching objects or surfaces that an infected person has touched. They are more likely to develop in individuals with compromised immune systems, such as children, elderly individuals, or those with certain health conditions.

While common warts can disappear on their own over time, some people prefer to have them treated due to aesthetic concerns or discomfort. Treatment options include over-the-counter topical medications containing salicylic acid, cryotherapy (freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen), laser therapy, and surgical removal. It is important to note that even with treatment, there is a possibility of recurrence since the virus may still be present in the body.


Also known as plantar warts, verrucas are essentially warts on the soles of your feet. It can vary in size from a few millimetres to about one centimetre in diameter. Unlike common warts, verrucas are usually flat and have a hard, thickened skin layer covering them. This thickened skin may give the verruca a rough, callus-like texture.

Verrucas commonly occur on weight-bearing areas of the foot, such as the heels or balls of the feet. Due to the pressure exerted on these areas during walking or standing, verrucas can cause discomfort or pain. This discomfort may be exacerbated when direct pressure is applied to the verruca, such as when walking barefoot.

The colour of a verruca can range from flesh-toned to grey or brown. Sometimes, tiny black dots, known as “wart seeds” or thrombosed capillaries, may be visible within the verruca. These dots are actually clotted blood vessels that have formed due to the presence of the wart.

Verrucas are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are highly contagious. They can be contracted through direct contact with an infected person or by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, such as shared shower floors or gym mats. Moist environments, such as swimming pools or locker rooms, provide an ideal breeding ground for the virus.

Although verrucas can sometimes resolve on their own over time, treatment may be desired to alleviate discomfort or accelerate their disappearance. Treatment options for verrucas include over-the-counter topical medications containing salicylic acid, cryotherapy (freezing the verruca with liquid nitrogen), verruca needling, microwave therapy, and surgical removal. Your podiatrist can advise you on the best treatment. Some people also use verruca socks, although they are not recommended. 

It is important to note that even with treatment, verrucas can be stubborn and may require multiple sessions or a combination of treatments to fully eliminate them. They can also become infected. Additionally, the virus may still persist in the body even after the verruca has disappeared, so precautionary measures should be taken to prevent its spread or recurrence. 

Can You Have Multiple Verrucas?

Verrucas are not just a solitary concern; it’s possible to have multiple verrucas at once, spreading across the feet. This spread can occur through direct skin-to-skin contact or indirectly via surfaces contaminated with the virus, such as floors in communal showers or around swimming pools. These warts thrive in warm, moist environments, making public places like gyms and pool areas common sites for transmission. Recognizing and treating verrucas promptly can help prevent their spread to other parts of your body or to other people.

Flat Or Plane Wart

A flat wart, also known as a plane wart or juvenile wart, is a type of wart that typically appears as multiple small, flat growths on the skin. Plane warts are round, smooth and have a flat top. They can be a range of colours – brown, yellow or skin-coloured. You will most often find these on your face or legs. 

These warts are generally smaller and smoother than other types of warts, and they have a flat or slightly raised surface. Flat warts often have a round or oval shape and may vary in colour from flesh-toned to slightly pink or light brown.

Flat warts tend to occur in clusters and can develop on various areas of the body, including the face, neck, hands, wrists, and knees. They are more commonly found in children and young adults. Unlike some other types of warts, flat warts are less likely to cause pain or discomfort, although they can be cosmetically bothersome.

Flat warts, like other warts, are caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). They can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected person or by sharing personal items, such as towels or razors.

Treatment options for flat warts are similar to those for other types of warts. They include over-the-counter topical medications containing salicylic acid, cryotherapy (freezing the warts with liquid nitrogen), laser therapy, and surgical removal. It’s important to note that flat warts can be more difficult to treat due to their multiple and widespread nature.

Are Warts And Verrucas Dangerous?

Although unsightly, they are not usually dangerous. Verrucas can be painful when you put weight on them (or if they are in a position where your shoes rub against them). Occasionally, warts and verrucas can crack and bleed. 

Because of this, it is often advised that treatment is not necessary for them. Although they do sometimes go away on their own, this can take many years – and as treatments have improved, it is unnecessary to put up with them, particularly if you worry about how they look or are concerned about them spreading. 

What Treatments Are Available?

There are several treatments available for warts and verrucas, all of which have varying success rates. Some, such as verruca needling and cryotherapy, are painful and can require local anaesthetic.

However, new technology is being developed all of the time, and one of the most exciting new verruca and wart treatments available is Swift microwave therapy. With this treatment, microwave energy is delivered to the skin to effectively get rid of warts and verrucas. The treatment is over very quickly, with a huge 83% success rate, and in most cases only one session is required.

Difference Between Warts and Verrucas

While warts and verrucas are both caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), there are distinct differences between the two:

  • Location: The most noticeable difference is their location. Verrucas, or plantar warts, are found specifically on the soles of the feet, whereas warts can appear almost anywhere on the body, including the hands, knees, and elbows.
  • Appearance: Verrucas often have a flat surface due to the pressure applied on them when walking. They may develop a hard, callous-like layer on top. Warts, on the other hand, typically have a rough, raised surface and are not flattened by body weight.
  • Symptoms: Verrucas can be painful, especially when pressure is applied, such as when walking or standing. Common warts are usually painless unless they are in an area where they are subject to pressure or friction.
  • HPV Strains: Different strains of HPV are responsible for the development of warts and verrucas. This variance in strains accounts for their differences in appearance and location.

Understanding these differences is crucial for effective treatment and prevention. While warts may disappear on their own over time, treatment may be desirable to prevent spreading, relieve symptoms, or for cosmetic reasons. Treatment options range from over-the-counter remedies to professional interventions, such as cryotherapy or laser therapy, depending on the type and severity of the wart or verruca.

Preventing Warts and Verrucas

Prevention is key when it comes to warts and verrucas, especially since they stem from a virus that’s easily transmitted. Here are practical steps to minimise your risk:

  • Maintain Foot Hygiene: Regularly clean and dry your feet to keep them free from the moist conditions where HPV thrives.
  • Wear Protective Footwear: In communal areas like gyms, pools, and locker rooms, always wear flip-flops or pool shoes to avoid direct contact with the floor.
  • Use Barrier Protection: Cover any cuts or abrasions on your feet with waterproof plasters, especially before entering shared showers or pools.
  • Avoid Sharing Personal Items: Towels, shoes, and socks can harbour the virus, so keep yours to yourself to reduce the risk of spreading HPV.

By following these preventive measures, you can significantly lower your chances of developing warts and verrucas or passing them onto others.

Finding Treatment Near Me

At Northwich Foot Clinic, our experienced podiatrists are skilled at delivering Swift microwave therapy. If this treatment isn’t suitable for you, we also have a variety of other therapies which we can discuss with you at your first appointment. You don’t need a referral from a doctor, and you can book your appointment online easily and quickly today. You can find Verruca Microwave Therapy under ‘Podiatry’ on our booking form.