It is now universally accepted that warts or verrucae are caused by a virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
When you get a human papilloma virus of the skin, if it is on the hands or face it commonly looks like a small “cauliflower” of skin – which is easily recognizable to most of us as a wart.
When the same thing occurs on the sole of the foot, due to pressure, the wart cannot grow outwards from the skin surface. As such, it presses back into the surface of the skin becoming a verruca. Therefore warts and verrucas are essentially the same – only their appearance changes.
Warts or verrucas can be found anywhere there is skin. Verrucas are found on the feet. Usually, verrucas are found on the weight bearing areas – the heel, side and ball of feet or the underside of the toes.
However they can be found between the toes or on the tips, sides or tops of the toes. They are rarely found on the top of the foot itself – although this is possible.
The distribution of verrucas if determined by where a human papilloma virus infection is most likely to be caught.
A verruca develops where human papilloma virus affects the skin. The human papilloma virus is spread by direct contact. Therefore areas of our body that come into contact with either other people’s bodies or areas where other people have been, are most prone to get this infection.
Therefore when we are thinking of warts, there are most commonly found on the hands but can also be found on the face – particularly around the mouth and nose area. Of course in sexual contact, they can be found around the sexual organs.
As far as verrucas are concerned, the same principles apply. Although it is unlikely that someone is going to have direct contact with another person’s foot, human papilloma virus can be spread by either walking on wet ground where someone with a human papilloma virus infection (or verruca) has previously walked (classically in swimming pools and in changing rooms), or wearing other peoples shoes, socks or other footwear.
For the human papilloma virus to get into the skin and cause a wart or verruca, the chance of getting a verruca increases if the skin is damaged. This might be direct damage such as a cut or graze but also can be a breakdown of the skin by maceration – this is what happens to your skin when it has been wet for a long period of time and starts to get crinkly or look white. You will see this if you have been lying in the bath for a long time and your hands and feet get crinkley and turn white.
Many verrucas do not cause any problems at all to the person with them. However they are socially unacceptable in that by having a verruca, a person is very contagious and is highly likely to be spreading verrucas to other people.
If a verruca is on weight-bearing area, such as the hardened skin on the heel, side of the foot or ball of the foot, or on the underside or tips of toes, then they verruca can be very uncomfortable on standing or walking.