Everything you need to know about plantar warts

Warts are a common condition, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll “get used to them” or stop feeling embarrassed by them. These painful and unsightly bumps can grow on any body part. Most of the time, they’re benign and — though painful — harmless. A few types of rare lesions are cancerous and sometimes mistaken for warts, so it’s a good idea to get any suspicious skin bump checked out by a medical professional. One common type of wart is called the plantar wart.

What is a plantar wart?

What is a plantar wart? Plantar warts are warts that appear on the bottom of the foot. They often start as small, fleshy bumps that may look like a callus or a corn. This wart can appear as a single wart or as a cluster called a mosaic plantar. Solitary plantar warts may grow into multiple warts if left untreated, while mosaic warts appear as a cluster initially and are more difficult to treat.

What causes plantar warts?

Like most other warts, plantar warts are related to the human papillomavirus. This virus has received a lot of attention in recent years as the sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cancer, particularly in women. There are over 100 kinds of HPV, and the ones that cause plantar warts are not the same as those that cause cancer.

You can get a plantar wart when you come into direct contact with the HPV virus. This can happen when you have a small cut or a break in the skin and walk on an infected surface. The virus enters through the skin opening, causing the infection that leads to the plantar wart.

These warts are contagious. When you have one, you can spread the virus by touching the wart and then touching other parts of your body or by trying to cut the wart out yourself. This may lead to more warts! You can also spread the virus if you share footwear or other items that have come into contact with the wart or walk barefoot while you have a plantar wart.

Who gets plantar warts?

Anyone can get a plantar wart, but they’re more common in children and teenagers than adults. People who have compromised immune systems are also more at risk for getting infected with the HPV that causes plantar warts.

The virus that causes this condition survives best in warm and moist environments. If you walk barefoot in a locker room or public shower or around a swimming pool, you risk getting infected. However, not everyone is vulnerable to the virus. People’s immune systems react differently when exposed to HPV. Some people who get exposed to it never become infected, while others do. You can even see these differences in people from the same family!

What symptoms indicate plantar warts?

The wart can appear on any part of the foot, but it often shows up on the areas where you bear weight. It appears as a fleshy, grainy, and rough raised bump. Frequently, a plantar wart causes pain at the site, and you may feel like you have something stuck in your shoe. When the growth is on a weight-bearing part of the foot, the wart may grow inward, and a rough callus forms over the top of it.

A plantar wart can also appear as a small lesion that breaks up the normal ridges and lines in your skin. You may see small black dots at the center of the lesions or bumps. These spots are frequently referred to as wart seeds. They aren’t actually seeds; they are tiny clots in the blood vessels. You may have either a single wart or a cluster of them growing together.

What are the treatment options for plantar warts?

Sometimes, plantar warts go away on their own. This can take several months and up to two years. If they don’t go away by themselves or are too painful or uncomfortable to wait, you can treat them in several ways. Some people attempt over-the-counter remedies, but if you have circulation issues or diabetes, you shouldn’t use over-the-counter wart treatment creams.

A podiatrist has the skill and expertise to remove your wart without damaging healthy skin cells and can offer invasive and non-invasive plantar wart treatment options.

Young Boy with Plantar Wart on Foot

Common ways to treat plantar warts:

Electrocautery: The doctor numbs the foot in the area where the wart is located and uses an electric needle to remove it surgically. Both the virus and the wart are treated. This is the preferred method and the most successful. When the treatment is completed, there is no more pain. The virus is also much less likely to recur than with other approaches.

Cryotherapy: With this method, the doctor usually gives you a local anesthetic to numb the wart area. Liquid nitrogen is applied to the wart, causing a blister to form. It takes approximately a week for the deadened skin to slough away. Often, it takes a few treatments before the wart is completely gone.

Salicylic acid: This is a prescription topical medication. It’s stronger than the kind you can buy at the store. The physician may apply it in the office and then have you continue treatment at home. It often requires multiple trips to the doctor’s office. You also run the risk of the wart returning.

How do you prevent plantar warts?

You can prevent plantar warts by wearing shoes in public and wet places, such as around the pool or in public showers. Don’t share footwear with someone who has a plantar wart. If you have a wart, refrain from touching it. If you do touch it, wash your hands immediately afterward. Keep your wart covered until it’s gone and always make sure your feet are clean and dry and change socks regularly.

Who removes plantar warts?

Arizona Foot Doctors provides compassionate foot care for the whole family. We believe in a conservative approach, using the least invasive means possible to alleviate your pain with our treatment programs. Our podiatrists treat plantar warts using electrocautery or, if you prefer, topical treatments. If you’re ready to be rid of your plantar wart, contact us today!