What are warts and verrucas?

Warts are small rough lumps on the skin. They are caused by a virus (human papilloma virus) which causes a reaction in the skin. Warts can occur anywhere on the body but occur most commonly on hands and feet. They range in size from 1mm to over 1cm. Sometimes only one or two warts develop. Sometimes several occur in the same area of skin. The shape and size of warts vary, and they are sometimes classed by how they look. For example: 'common warts', 'plane (flat) warts', 'filiform (finger-like) warts', 'mosaic warts', etc.
Figure 1: Two warts on the inside of a finger (used with permission from Wikipedia).


Verrucas are warts that occur on the soles of the feet. They are the same as warts on any other part of the body. However, they may look flatter as they tend to get 'trodden in'. 

Who gets warts and verrucas and are they harmful?

Most people develop one or more warts at some time in their life, usually before the age of 20. About 1 in 10 people in the UK have warts at any one time. They are not usually harmful.

To treat or not to treat?

There is no need to treat warts if they are not causing you any problems. Without treatment, about 3 in 10 warts have gone within 10 weeks, and most warts will have gone within 1-2 years, and leave no scar. The chance that a wart will go is greatest in children and young people.

Treatment with liquid nitrogen

Liquid nitrogen treatment has been found not to be very much more effective than using freezing treatments you can buy over the counter so the surgery does not routinely offer this to patients. It also requires a number of appointments and has been found to be no more effective than using over the counter preparations.

A new method of treating warts

However, new research has found that using a method utilising standard DIY “duct tape” can be very effective at resolving warts. The instructions for using this are below- you may like to try this simple treatment option for your wart or your child’s warts to see if it works. A recent study found that covering a wart with strong adhesive tape is likely to clear the wart within a month or two. (Duct tape was used in the study.) In this study, about 7 in 10 warts had cleared within two months with using duct tape. It may be worth a try as it is painless.

The method described in the study is as follows:

The wart was covered with duct tape for six days. If the tape fell off during this time a fresh piece of tape was put on.

After six days, the tape was removed and the wart soaked in warm water for five minutes

After drying it was then gently rubbed with an emery board or pumice stone to get rid of dead tissue from the top of the wart.

The wart was then left uncovered overnight and duct tape put on again the next day.

Treatment was continued for up to two months. 

You should not use duct tape on the face as in some people it can irritate the skin. 

Further reading

 warts information leaflet.doc