What Are Plantar Warts?
All warts are caused by the more than 150 strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Plantar literally means the sole of the foot or the plantar surface. While they may grow anywhere on the sole of the foot, they tend to crop up in areas of pressure and friction. Plantar warts only infect the top layers of skin and appear as a hard, thick layer of skin or callous bumps.
While plantar warts are contagious, they are not related to the HPV strain that produces genital warts. Plantar warts, and warts in general are not malignant and can not lead to cancer.
They can spread by touching, scraping or picking them, and can also be transmitted by the shoes and socks of someone with an infection.
Plantar warts that spread to the hands are referred to as Palmer warts.
Although warts sometimes go away on their own, it is occasionally necessary to treat painful plantar warts.
What Are Causes and Risks of Plantar Warts?
Plantar warts are prevalent in all age groups, but most common among children 12-16 years of age and rarely seen among the elderly. They are almost always acquired through direct contact, be it in a communal shower, touching an infected surface, and even wrestling mats.
The risks of acquiring a wart are greatly heightened in those with weakened immune systems or recent skin trauma such as a cut or scrape.
What Are Plantar Wart Symptoms and Signs?
Plantar wart signs and symptoms include:
- A small, fleshy, rough, grainy growth (lesion) on the bottom of your foot, usually the base of the toes and forefoot or the heel
- Hard, thickened skin (callus) over a well-defined “spot” on the skin, where a wart has grown inward
- Black pinpoints, which are commonly called wart seeds but are actually small, clotted blood vessels
- A lesion that interrupts the normal lines and ridges in the skin of your foot
- Pain or tenderness when walking or standing.
When Should Someone See A Doctor For Plantar Warts?
It is a good idea to see a doctor when one is unable to distinguish a plantar wart from a corn, callus, nevus (mole), or another type of skin lesion. Most such growths are harmless, but some may pose a significant health risk.
You should see your doctor for the lesion on your foot if:
- The lesion is bleeding, painful or changes in appearance or color
- You’ve tried treating the wart, but it persists, multiplies or recurs
- Your discomfort interferes with activities
- You have diabetes or poor sensation in your feet
- A weakened immune system is evident because of immune-suppressing drugs, HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders
- It’s difficult to tell whether the lesion is a wart
Also, call a doctor if simple home therapy fails to resolve the problem.
Plantar warts are rarely an emergency; however, the complications of aggressive therapy can be bleeding, severe pain, inability to walk, redness, swelling, streaking, and boil or abscess formation, which can all indicate an emergency.
Are There Home Remedies for Plantar Warts?
Yes! Take a minute to review my post on 3 natural treatments to treat warts at home. For persistent warts, or an outbreak of many warts, a stronger, medicinal approach may be needed. The product that I had success with, and got results, was Wartrol Wart Remover:
What methods do Doctors use to treat Plantar Warts?
For extra-stubborn warts or serious medical situations, clinical treatment may be necessary. When you visit a doctor, dermatologist or other medical specialist, they are likely to suggest one of the following methods for removing warts:
- Laser treatment: New technology has enabled doctors to use lasers to destroy the wart. The procedure, performed in the physician’s office, is expensive and is likely to result in some scarring.
- Cryotherapy: Freezing warts with liquid nitrogen is frequently successful. This causes the wart to turn black and eventually fall off within a few days. If used properly, there should be no scarring.
- Oral medication: No oral medication has proven effective in the treatment of warts.
- Immunotherapy: For plantar warts that are resistant to treatment, one may be referred to a dermatologist for immunotherapy, which creates an immune response against foreign substances. Occasionally, the injection of Candida skin test antigen into warts is effective if the patient is skin test positive to this material.
- There are many other treatments available for the treatment of plantar warts. No single therapy is so effective that it has eliminated the use of all others. Ultimately, all treatments rely on the patient’s immune system to recognize the wart virus proteins and to produce an immune response that will rid the body of this annoying problem.
Is It Possible to Prevent Plantar Warts?
Yes, there are tactics to reduce your exposure to plantar warts:
- Don’t go barefoot in locker rooms, public showers, or on the tiled areas around swimming pools (public or private), hot tubs, wading pools, etc. Wear flip-flops or sandals.
- Don’t try on other people’s shoes (including shoes in a thrift store) without socks or nylon stockings.
- Don’t share towels, razors, nail clippers, pumice stones, or emery boards.
- Avoid direct contact with your own or other people’s warts. This really does include your own warts. Wash your hands thoroughly if they come in contact with a wart.
- Don’t pick at your warts, as this may spread the virus to your hands.
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Change your shoes and socks daily.
- Protect the skin from injury, and wash hands frequently. Warts should be covered with waterproof tape in wet environments such as showers and swimming pools to avoid infecting oneself or others.