What is a Plantar Wart?
A wart is a viral infection of the skin caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). There are over 100 strains of HPV and at least 60 of those can cause foot warts. Warts can occur anywhere on the body, but when they happen on the bottom of the foot, we call them plantar warts (aka verruca plantaris). Plantar is the medical term for the sole of the foot. They may occur as a single growth, multiple ones in a cluster (called a mosaic verruca), or spread from one toe or foot to the other.
What Causes a Plantar Wart?
The virus must be contracted from somewhere or someone, usually when walking barefoot. Common places to contract them are:
- Swimming pools
- Locker rooms at gyms
- Mats in yoga or martial arts studios
- Family members who use the same bathroom, shower, or bathtub
- Some people are just naturally more susceptible to catching warts than others
- Those with a compromised immune system are more likely to get them
- A skin growth on the bottom of the foot, heel or toe. They are often mistaken for calluses or corns.
- Thick callused skin that usually has tiny black specs, called petechiae. These are blood vessels in the wart.
- There may or may not be pain associated with them.
- Less commonly warts are found on top of the toes or feet.
Treatment of Warts
There is no single treatment that is 100% effective for warts which is why there are so many different treatments options. Some can be eradicated relatively easily and quickly while others can be extremely persistent and difficult to get rid of despite multiple types of treatment.
- Many warts will go away on their own within a year or two. So, if there is no pain and they are not spreading, then simply monitoring them and waiting is an option.
- Duct tape applied to the wart regularly may have limited effectiveness.
- OTC remedies such as salicylic acid applications can work, but often take a long time.
- Cryotherapy by freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen is generally not very successful due to the thicker skin on the sole of the foot.
- Stronger topical chemicals can be applied by your podiatrist which usually have a higher success rate. The thick callused skin on top of the wart is often trimmed away by the doctor first to allow the chemical to penetrate deeper.
- Injection of medicine underneath the wart.
- If other treatments fail, then the wart can be surgically cut out and cauterized in the office. This procedure takes a while to heal, is more painful, and has a higher chance of causing scar tissue. As such, it’s usually a last resort.
- An oral medicine called cimetidine is sometimes used, and can be quite effective especially in children that have many warts which would be too painful to treat with other methods.
- Some warts can reoccur months or years after they appear to have resolved.
- If you have a wart or other skin growth that is not responding to OTC remedies, then please give us a call so we can evaluate and treat it. Other conditions such molluscum contagiosum, painful calluses, or even skin cancers can mimic warts.
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Change socks and shoes regularly.
- Avoid walking barefoot in public places, especially moist locations like pools and locker rooms. Wear shower shoes in these cases.
- Clean your tub or shower regularly with bleach or other disinfectant especially if you know another family member has foot warts.
- You can sanitize the inside of shoes with commercial UV light devices such as SteriShoe.
Plantar Wart Specialist
Judd Davis, DPM with A New Step Foot & Ankle Clinics is a compassionate podiatrist (foot and ankle doctor) who helps patients with plantar warts, foot pain and other foot and ankle problems. A New Step Foot & Ankle Clinics is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.