Plantar Warts in Adults & Children — Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Plantar warts are common in both adults and children. Learn about their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What are plantar warts?

Foot warts, which are caused by a virus, can be quite painful. They are frequently called plantar warts because they appear most often on the “plantar surface” (or sole) of a foot. Children, especially teenagers, tend to be more susceptible to warts than adults, but it’s not uncommon for adults to get them. Some people seem to be immune and never get them. Most warts are harmless and benign, even though they may be painful. They are often mistaken for corns, which are layers of dead skin that build up to protect an area which is being continuously irritated. Although they are not overly common, it is also possible that a variety of other more severe lesions, including carcinomas and melanomas, can be mistakenly identified as warts.

On the bottom of the feet, plantar warts tend to be hard and flat, rough-surfaced, with well-defined boundaries. They are generally fleshier when they are on the top of the feet or the toes. They are often gray or brown with a center that appears as one or more pinpoints of black. Identifying these warts can be difficult, so we recommend consulting with our Scottsdale podiatrists for an official diagnosis.

Young Boy with Plantar Wart on Foot

What causes plantar warts?

The plantar wart is often contracted by walking barefooted on dirty surfaces or littered ground where the virus is lurking. The virus is sustained by warm, moist environments. If left untreated, warts can grow to an inch or more in diameter, and they can spread into clusters of several warts. Warts can last for varying lengths of time, averaging about 18 months. Occasionally, they spontaneously disappear after a short time. At times, they can recur just as frequently in the same location.

How do you prevent plantar warts?

  • Avoid walking barefooted, except on sandy beaches
  • Change shoes daily
  • Keep your feet clean and dry
  • Check children’s feet periodically for signs of growth
  • Avoid direct contact with warts — from other people and from other parts of the body
  • Do not ignore skin growths or changes in your skin

How do you treat plantar warts?

The most common (and most preferred) method to treat plantar warts is electrocautery (using a hyfrecator). Using this method, the area of the foot is first numbed using a local anesthetic. When the area is completely numb, the wart is removed using an “electric needle.” The wart and the virus is treated. A small dressing is applied. There is very little pain after the treatment, and normal activities can usually begin within one day. The advantage of electrocautery is that it normally requires only one treatment. Topical skin treatments are also available at Arizona Foot Doctors. Multiple office visits are required, and recurrence of the wart is more common.

Plantar wart treatment at home?

Self-treatment is generally not advisable. Over-the-counter preparations contain chemicals, such as acid, that destroy skin cells. It takes an expert to destroy abnormal wart cells without also destroying surrounding healthy tissue. Self-treatment with such medications especially should be avoided by diabetics and those with circulation problems which cause insensitive feet. Never use them in the presence of an active infection.

Scottsdale plantar wart treatment

Each patient is unique and requires expert evaluation. Learn more about what you or your child may be experiencing by connecting with the plantar wart professionals at Arizona Foot Doctors.

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