Plantar warts are noncancerous, small growths that appear on the sole of your foot. It occurs due to a particular strain of human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus generally enters your body through tiny cuts, breaks or other weak spots located on the bottom of your feet. The medical name of plantar wart is Verruca plantaris.
These warts usually appear on the heels or other weight-bearing areas of your feet. This is primarily because the pressure might cause these warts to grow inward beneath a hard, thick layer of skin.
Anyone can get plantar warts, but they are most common in teenagers and children. Some gymnasts, athletes, swimmers and dancers are more likely to get plantar warts. The reason being they often go barefoot in communal areas. If you have a weakened immune system, you are also at higher risk.
Here we learn more about the symptoms and causes of plantar warts, as well as the treatment options.
What is Plantar Wart?
Plantar warts are small, fleshy growths found on the sole of the foot – the plantar surface. These warts are contagious and can spread through tiny cuts. The virus will infect the outer layers of your skin, causing rough or grainy lesions.
You can notice these warts on your heel, forefoot, or base of the toes. Because these areas are weight-bearing, the pressure in these areas causes plantar warts to grow inward.
These warts develop a hardened layer of skin over them called the callus. These warts grow slowly and may not be painful, irritating or bothersome.
Plantar warts are of two types:
Solitary plantar warts are exactly, what the name implies, a single or stand alone wart. As the wart keeps growing it might form smaller ‘satellite’ warts.
Mosaic plantar warts are seen in clusters and can be more difficult to treat because of their number.
Children and older people are more likely to get these warts. They also tend to attack those with weakened immune systems. If you have other contagious foot conditions, you should protect yourself by not going barefoot in public spaces.
Plantar warts often disappear on their own without any treatment. This is especially seen in children. In adults, they tend to remain for longer periods.
If they become bothersome, you buy over-the-counter plantar wart treatments. Those that persist despite treatment or that recur might require more aggressive treatment. In such a scenario, you should visit your doctor, and your doctor might include plantar wart removal.
Most of these warts aren’t a serious health concern. They usually go away without treatment. You may want to try self-care treatments or visit your doctor to have warts removed.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Plantar Wart?
A skin growth, quite like a skin tag – that is raised, feels hard and has a rough surface is a plantar wart. These are flesh-colored growths or lesions often seen on your feet.
The pressure on your foot can cause the wart to grow inward and appear flat. Flat wart lesions are only noticeable because they interrupt your normal print lines. These warts can also be rough or look grainy.
Common symptoms of plantar warts:
- Black dots, which are small clots, are noticed as your wart grows deeper. These are commonly called dots wart seeds.
- It will feel like something is in your shoe.
- There is tenderness or pain, especially when walking or standing. You might also feel pain when you squeeze the area.
- It has a thickened, hard skin over the wart – which often looks like a callus. Generally, a callus will not be painful when you squeeze it.
- If you are not sure whether a lesion is a wart or not, you should seek advice or visit your doctor for a diagnosis.
Causes of Plantar Wart
These warts are caused by an infection with HPV, which affects the outer layer of your skin on the soles of your feet. The growth develops when the virus enters your body through tiny cuts on the bottom of your feet.
HPV is very common, and there are more than 100 kinds of the virus that exist. But only a few of them cause warts on the feet. Other types of HPV are seen to cause warts on other areas of your skin or on your mucous membranes.
How are these viruses transmitted? Every person’s immune system responds differently to HPV. Hence every person who comes in contact with the virus does not develop warts.
The HPV strains that cause plantar warts are not contagious. Meaning the virus does not easily get transmitted by direct contact ie from person to person. But the virus thrives in warm, moist environments.
Consequently, you might have chances of contracting the virus by walking barefoot around the swimming pool area and locker rooms. More warts will appear from your first site of infection.
Understanding Plantar Wart Treatment
Most of these warts are harmless and go away without any kind of treatment. However, it might take a year or more to get rid of the wart. If your warts are spreading and painful, you may want to treat them with over-the-counter medications or home remedies. This might involve many repeated treatments before warts go away.
In case your self-care approaches haven’t helped, you can discuss with your doctor the following treatments:
1 Stronger peeling medicine or salicylic acid.
Your doctor might prescribe wart medications that have salicylic acid. This works by removing layers of a wart a little by little. These medicines might also stimulate your immune system’s ability to fight against the wart. Your doctor will suggest applying the prescribed medicines on your wart regularly at home, followed by occasional office visits.
2 Freezing medicine or cryotherapy.
Cryotherapy is generally done at a doctor’s clinic. The treatment involves applying liquid nitrogen to your wart with a cotton swab. This method might be painful for many, and hence your doctor may numb the area before starting with the procedure.
The chemical applied during the treatment causes a blister to form around your wart. As a result, the dead tissue slowly shrinks and falls off in a week or so.
Cryotherapy might also stimulate your immune system so that it can fight against viral warts. This could involve repeated treatments, and you might need to return to your doctor’s office every two to four weeks or until the wart disappears.
Some studies have proved that the combination of cryotherapy and salicylic acid treatment is very effective in removing warts.
Surgical or Other Procedures for Treating Plantar Wart
If freezing medicine and salicylic acid do not work, your doctor might recommend other following treatments:
1 Immunotherapy. This method uses solutions or medications to stimulate your immune system to fight viral-causing warts. Your doctor might inject your warts with a foreign substance (like antigen) or apply a cream or solution or cream to the wart.
2 Other acids. Your doctor will shave the surface of your wart and apply trichloroacetic acid with a wooden toothpick. This method requires a repeated return to your doctor’s clinic treatments every week. You might notice some side effects like burning and stinging. Between visits, your doctor might recommend applying salicylic acid to the wart.
3 Laser treatment. Pulsed dye laser treatment is very effective in burning the closed tiny blood vessels. After the procedure, infected tissue eventually dies, and the wart falls off automatically. This method also requires repeat treatments every three to four weeks. The effectiveness of this procedure is quite limited as it causes pain and potentially scarring.
4 Vaccine. The HPV vaccine is considered a successful method to treat warts. However, this vaccine does not specifically target the wart virus that causes the majority of plantar warts.
5 Minor surgery. The last resort, your doctor removes (cuts) the wart or destroys it using an electric needle. These are called electrodesiccation and curettage in medical terms. This procedure could be painful, so your doctor might numb your skin first. Because surgery generally has a risk of scarring, this method is only used to treat plantar warts when other treatments fail.
Potential Complications Related to Plantar Wart
These warts do not pose a serious health threat as they are not cancerous. However, they might cause pain and discomfort as they appear on your sole.
In some cases, they can make you change the way you walk or stand to accommodate. This, in turn, can result in causing joint and muscle pain or discomfort. Your doctor is the right person to examine and identify if the warts are causing pain and whether they are interfering with your ability to stand and walk normally.
Prevention of Plantar Wart
You can avoid getting plantar warts by following these tips:
- Try wearing shoes in and around the locker rooms, swimming pool areas, and communal showers.
- Also, keep your feet clean and dry.
- Should avoid contact with warts on other people.
- You should avoid using a pumice stone or emery board that has been in contact with a wart.
- Wear clean, dry socks when wearing shoes.
- Avoid going barefoot in communal areas.
Plantar warts have been seen to disappear without treatment within two years, but regular skin care is a must. However, if you want to remove the plantar wart, then you can consult your doctor for prescription medicine. Else you can also opt for a medical procedure to reduce its appearance. You can also try to treat the wart at home with OTC products like salicylic acid.
Some warts might look similar to other skin growths. So you should also see a doctor if you are unsure what the growth is or if you notice any unusual symptoms like:
- bleeding or oozing
- shape or color changes
- changes in size
If you have a weakened immune system or have diabetes or have a circulatory health issue that affects the feet – then you should seek the advice of your doctor. Consult your doctor before trying any treatment that may damage your skin.