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Q: My son, aged 10, has two nasty verrucas on the ball of his foot . My chiropodist has recommended that I use Themba cream to get rid of them. Can you tell me a bit more about verrucas and Themba please? How long will it take for them to go if I use this cream?

A: Verrucas are caused by an infection of the skin by a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is highly contagious. The viral infection is spread through skin contact with contaminated surfaces. We are especially prone if our immune system is weakened, or if the skin on our hands and feet is damaged by cuts or scratches and comes into contact with rough surfaces contaminated with the virus. This explains why people often catch verrucas in communal changing areas, like those at swimming pools and gym clubs. Virus-infected skin cells are shed onto the floor and passed onto others walking over the same area.

If someone has a wart or verruca the virus can spread to other parts of their body as well as to other people.

Verrucas tend to appear on weight bearing areas such as the ball of the foot, making them particularly uncomfortable and quite painful to walk on. In addition, verrucas can be more painful when you wear tight fitting shoes.Their appearance is similar to corns but verrucaes are more superficial in depth. The surface of the verrucae is covered with black dots that are actually small blood vessels that feed the verrucae. The color is usually paler then the usual tone of the skin. Verrucaes are usually surrounded by hard skin

Verrucas may go away by themselves eventually, but this can take a considerable length of time, and there is always the risk of spreading them to others or getting more yourself because they are contagious. So it is best to treat them when they first appear. The longer verrucas are left untreated the harder they can be to remove, so children' feet should be checked regularly.

Good tips to avoid getting verrucas include always wearing some kind of footwear in places like communal showers and sports changing rooms, and always using your own towel. Also socks need to be changed on a daily basis.

Use Themba cream as often as you can -- we recommend at least twice daily but, as with cold sores, the more often you can apply Themba, the more effective it will be. If you need to cover the verrucas, smear Themba on to the dressing so it will have a chance to work while the affected area isn't exposed to the air. Leave the verrucas uncovered as often as possible after Themba has been applied.

It's impossible to say how long it will take for the verrucas to go as everyone is different. But we do have a number of state registered chiropodists and podiatrists who use Themba regularly and effectively for this condition so please do persevere.

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