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Do verrucas have roots? This is one of the most searched for questions in Google when looking at problems related to feet. The simple answer is no. Verrucae and warts do not have roots. So, why is then that people believe that they have? Is it the verruca’s reluctance to budge when being treated, which implies it has deep down roots; roots which anchor it firmly in the skin. Could it be the small visible black dots which bleed on reduction, or the warty filamentous desiccated coconut texture? There are so many myths and misconceptions regarding verrucae and warts.

It is hard to find where this particular myth originated from. The notion of verrucae roots is rooted in folklore more than science. More than likely comes from the fact they are a struggle to get rid of. They seem to be so deep rooted within the skin. Patients often comment too, that corns have roots; “Please can you get to the root of it”. Getting to the root is a turn of phrase, which overtime the public has translated to be fact.

Why Do Verrucas Seem Rooted to the Spot?

Verrucae and warts are caused by strains of the human papilloma virus(HPV). The virus infects cells and changes the structure and DNA of the cells within the skin. Unfortunately, the virus enters the skin by stealth and goes undetected. It does not create any inflammatory markers to mediate an immune response. To resolve an infection an immune response is beneficial. Without one, individuals have what is termed ‘immune ignorance’, whereby the body shows no interest in eliminating the infecting virus so the verruca hangs around. Stays rooted to the spot!

The verruca  virus does not venture below the epidermis, although the verruca compresses downwards into the dermal layer. The virus causes the epidermis to have  spiky finger like external protrusions( parakeratosis). This is more evident in non-weight bearing warty growths. Some individuals feel if you pull them out you will get to the root of the verruca. Getting to the so called ‘root’ of a verruca is challenging.

Depth of a Verruca in the Skin

To successfully excise a verruca from the sole of the foot, a podiatrist has to go deep. The skin on a heel can be up to 1.4mm thick. When a verruca on a heel is lasered then cut out, there can be quite a deep hole. The dermis is exposed and normally  very vascular. It heals quite quickly over a few weeks with little to no scarring. The dermal subcutaneous barrier has not been penetrated.

Verruca excised deeply from skin on a heel after a successful laser treatment.

What are the black dots in a verruca?

As to the beliefs around the black dots, they are largely considered to be thrombosed blood vessels. Most schematic diagrams feature blood vessels infiltrating the verruca. As the verruca does not infect into the dermal layer of the skin this does suggest otherwise. The dermal epidermal junction forms a barrier separating the epidermis from the dermis. The dermal capillaries get squeezed up precariously into the verruca. Any trauma breaks the dermal epidermal barrier and ruptures the dermal blood vessels. Blood leaks into the verruca tissue and gets trapped as black spots. This is the scientific explanation, but there are some strange random ones still at large e.g. black dots are seeds. Seeds planted from catching the verruca from someone else! This comes from from verrucae being called plantar warts. Plantar meaning planter as in planting!  



Are there blood vessels penetrating into verruca?

So, it would seem that some individuals consider verrucas to be organic plant like structures with roots and spreading seeds! Plants create oxygen so in theory do verrucae? Of course not. Viral verrucae do not produce oxygen, nor do they need to breathe. Putting duct tape on a verruca to starve it of oxygen is therefor nonsensical. Another  strange propagated  myth like verrucae having roots.








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