Plantar warts are noncancerous skin growths that usually appear on the heels or balls of the feet (areas that feel the most pressure). This pressure also may cause plantar warts to grow inward under a hard, thick layer of skin (callus). Plantar warts are caused by human papillomavirus, a viral infection that enters the body through tiny cuts or weak spots on the bottom of the feet.
Although most warts go away without treatment, they can cause minor pain and discomfort depending on their location. If the pain continues, seeing a doctor to have the wart removed is a possible treatment option to be considered.
Signs and symptoms of plantar warts can include:
· Pain and tenderness when walking or standing
· A small and grainy growth at the bottom of the foot
· Hard, thickened skin (callus) where a wart has grown inward
· Black pinpoints (small, clotted blood vessels)
· A cut in the skin of the foot
Plantar warts are caused by a viral infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) in the outer layer of skin on the soles of the feet. The virus thrives in warm, moist environments and can be contracted by walking barefoot around public showers or swimming pools. Every individual’s immune system responds differently to HPV so not everyone who comes in contact with it develops warts. The virus also needs to have a point of entry into the skin of the foot such as through cracks in dry skin, cuts or wet skin from being in the water a long time.
Although any individual can develop plantar warts, this type of wart is more likely to affect:
· Children and teenagers
· Individuals with weakened immune systems
· Individuals who have previously had plantar warts
· Individuals who walk barefoot around virus thriving environments
A possible complication that can arise from having plantar warts is change in posture. An individual may change the way he or she stands, walks, or runs without even realizing it in order to lower the pain associated with plantar warts and ease muscle discomfort.
Most plantar warts go away on their own without the need for treatment, though it may take a year or two. If the warts are painful or spreading, a few self care measures that can be taken to relieve symptoms include:
- Taking over-the-counter medications
- Salicylic acid: The use of stronger peeling medicine in order to remove layers of a wart a little bit at a time
- Cryotherapy: A type of freezing therapy that involves applying liquid nitrogen to the wart, either with a spray or a cotton swab. The chemical causes a blister to form around the wart, and the dead tissue falls off within a week or so.
If salicylic acid and freezing don't work, a doctor may recommend the following treatments:
· The use of bichloracetic acid or trichloroacetic acid
· Immune therapy: A type of therapy that uses medications or solutions to stimulate the immune system to fight viral warts.
· Minor surgery: The use of an electric needle to cut away the wart or destroy it.
· Laser treatment: A type of treatment that involves burning tiny blood vessels in order for the infected tissue to die and cause the wart to fall off.
· Vaccine: Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been successfully used to treat warts
A few recommendations that can help reduce the risk of developing plantar warts include:
- Avoiding direct contact with warts (even one’s own warts)
- Avoiding picking at the warts
- Washing hands carefully after touching the warts
- Keeping feet clean and dry
- Changing shoes and socks daily
- Wearing shoes around virus thriving environments (swimming pools, public showers, locker rooms)