What are Plantar Warts?

Verrucæ pedis, “plantar warts”, can often be differentiated from helomata, “corns”, by close observation of skin striations. Feet, like hands, are covered in skin striæ which are more commonly called fingerprints. Where verrucæ pedis are present, the skin striæ can be observed as going around the lesion; where the lesion is not verrucæ pedis, the cell DNA are not altered and the striations continue across the top layer of the skin. Furthermore, VPs tend to be painful on application of pressure from either side of the lesion rather than direct pressure. Helomata tend to be the opposite and are painful on direct pressure rather than pressure from either side.

Effects of Plantar Warts

Plantar warts should be treated because they are contagious and rarely a plantar wart left untreated for years can become cancerous.

Candidates for Plantar Warts

These ugly bumps are more likely to appear on the feet of people with: Multiple exposures to the virus, damaged or cut skin and weakened immune systems.

For reasons doctors don\’t understand, some people are more susceptible to the wart-causing virus, just as some people are more likely to catch a cold. Children and teenagers tend to be especially vulnerable to warts.

Your Consultation

Most plantar warts aren\’t a serious health concern, but they may be bothersome or painful, and they can be resistant to treatment. You may need to see your doctor to remove them.

See your doctor if your warts are painful or change in appearance or color. Also see your doctor if warts persist, multiply or recur, despite home treatment, or if warts interfere with your activities. If you have diabetes or a circulatory disorder, don\’t try to treat any plantar warts at home. See your doctor for advice.

The Plantar Wart Procedure

Plantar warts can be stubborn. Because of their location aggressive use of liquid nitrogen cryotherapy is difficult in that it can not only be painful but swelling and soreness can prevent walking for a number of days. Often paring the warts by thinning them down can be helpful. The use of salicylic acid preparations that are applied daily and cover the affected area will eat away at the surface of the wart allowing it to be pared down. This may make it more responsive to liquid nitrogen. The use of duct tape to soften the lesions in some individuals can be in itself curative. It appears that changing the water content and making the skin mushy enhances the patient’s ability to eradicate these warts. Treatments such as surgery and scraping of these warts are discouraged as scars can sometimes be painful on the weight-bearing parts of the foot. The pulse dye laser can be used once the wart has been thinned as it does not produce scarring. Occlusion combining these therapies with Aldara cream in some individuals is helpful.

Recovery

There are a variety of ways to treat warts. The over-the-counter medications have a difficult time penetrating the thick skin on the bottom of the foot, so they do not work well in this area. Professional treatment consists of burning the wart with topical acids, freezing with liquid nitrogen, laser surgery or cutting them out. All methods have the possibility of the wart coming back. Surgical excision of the wart has the highest success rate with a relatively low rate of recurrence. There is some mild discomfort with this procedure and it takes several weeks for the area to completely heal. Normal activity can generally be resumed in a few days depending on the size and number of warts that have been removed.

Risks

Warts may spread, develop into clusters or fuse to become a mosaic wart. Plantar warts can be painful making it difficult to walk and run. Over-aggressive treatment may lead to scarring. Others may be infected. If a wart is being treated professionally and does not seem to improve in a reasonable period of time, the growth should be excised and biopsied.

FAQs

What are plantar warts?

Plantar warts are non-cancerous skin growths on the soles of your feet caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which enters your body through tiny cuts and breaks in your skin. Plantar warts often develop beneath pressure points in your feet, such as the heels or balls of your feet.

Is there a difference between plantar warts and other warts located elsewhere on the body?

The difference between plantar warts and warts located elsewhere on the body is the fact that warts are generally outgrowth type lesions, but on the bottom of the foot they are pushed inward due to the pressure of walking, plus the fact that the skin on the bottom of the foot tends to be thicker than skin elsewhere, making the treatment of plantar warts more difficult.

How can I reduce risk of plantar warts?

Do the following to avoid getting plantar warts:

  • Avoid walking barefoot in public areas such as showers, communal changing rooms.
  • Change shoes and socks daily.
  • Avoid sharing shoes and socks.
  • Avoid direct contact with warts on other parts of body.
  • Avoid direct contact with warts on other persons.

What are the signs and symptoms of plantar warts?

Plantar warts are often mistaken for corns or calluses. To make the distinction, look for:

  • Small, fleshy, grainy bumps on the soles of your feet.
  • Hard, flat growths with a rough surface and well-defined boundaries.
  • Gray or brown lumps with one or more black pinpoints, which are actually small, clotted blood vessels, not “wart seeds”.
  • Bumps that interrupt the normal lines and ridges in the skin of your feet.