What are plantar warts?

Contrary to childhood speculations, plantar warts have nothing to do with farmers or gardeners.

The word “plantar” refers to the bottom of the foot, rather than a person who plants seeds. People pick up warts when they step on a live virus with bare feet.

Plantar warts are hard skin lesions that grow on the bottom of the foot.

What causes plantar warts?

A strain of human papillomavirus (HPV) causes plantar warts. Like other viruses, it is contagious. But this is just one of the over 100 HPV viruses in our world today. It is not the same strain responsible for sexually transmitted diseases.

The virus causing this type of wart thrives best in warm and moist environments like locker room floors, public showers, swimming pools, or other public areas where people walk barefoot.

When the bottom of the foot encounters the virus, it invades the outer layer of skin, and the wart grows. While plantar warts can grow inward, the root does not grow into the bone. They can grow deep into the skin.

The plantar-wart virus is not as contagious as some, but it will spread. Touching a wart and not washing your hands completely can spread the virus, transferring it—and warts—to your hands, your face, or other parts of your body.

How common are plantar warts?

People who have feet and shower barefoot are susceptible to plantar warts.

The virus can be anywhere, in a hotel, on the patio of the pool, and even in your home shower if someone in your family brings it home from school, the gym, or a public pool.

Many people of all ages experience plantar warts at some point in their lives. The thick and unsightly patches that form the wart are not harmful, but they are a nuisance and unsightly.

What do plantar warts feel like?

As the body rushes antibodies to the virus, the area around the wart may become red, warm to the touch, and swollen. In severe cases, it can cause pain and bleeding.

Warts on the bottom of the foot can make walking painful.

What is the best treatment for plantar warts?

Sometimes the best treatment is to do nothing. Often, the body clears the virus on its own. It might take a year or more for warts to disappear. The HPV virus can remain dormant in the body and cause another breakout later.

But most people want to get rid of warts as soon as possible.

There are some over-the-counter and home remedies that you can try.

Purchase an over-the-counter topical ointment and use it as directed.

Some people have found success covering the wart with duct tape. This takes patience and diligence to change the tape often. Using duct tape to cover the wart also keeps the virus from spreading.

If the in-home remedies aren’t working, and the wart is interfering with your ability to walk or enjoy life, a visit to a podiatrist may be the next step.

A podiatrist will examine the foot and recommend a treatment plan.

One method of medical treatment is cryotherapy. During this procedure, the podiatrist uses liquid nitrogen and freezes the wart. It blisters the skin and kills the wart.

Another wart removal procedure uses prescription-strength salicylic or trichloroacetic acid to peel away the layers of the skin.

In some instances, minor surgery may be necessary.

There are some wart treatments you should not use.

  • Do not try to cut the wart out. Only a podiatrist or healthcare provider should perform surgery on your feet. Opening the skin can cause the wart to spread and increase your risk of infection.
  • Do not try to burn the wart off with a match. This can lead to severe burns on the feet that cause a worse problem than a plantar wart.

Seven things you can do to prevent plantar warts.

  1. Keep your feet soft and supple. Skin is the body’s first line of defense against viral infections. Keeping your feet moisturized and free of cracks, calluses, and corns will help your body ward off the virus. When people have cracks in their feet, no matter how small, they are more susceptible to contracting plantar warts.
  2. Wear water shoes, flip-flops, or other footwear when using a communal shower or near public pools. If you have a wart on your foot, don’t walk barefoot in public places to avoid spreading the virus to others.
  3. Wash and dry your feet thoroughly after using a locker room, public shower, or other public areas.
  4. Change your socks every day.
  5. Use a dedicated nail clipper and file for your feet.
  6. Don’t share towels, nail clippers, or other personal items.
  7. If you have a wart, don’t touch it, scratch it, or shave it off. These actions can spread the virus. If you do have to treat the wart, use medical-grade rubber gloves. Always wash your hands thoroughly after caring for your feet.

When should I see a podiatrist about a plantar wart?

When the wart interferes with your life, it’s time to seek treatment.

If the wart bleeds, becomes infected, aches, or causes pain when you walk, make an appointment with a podiatrist as soon as you can.

Bone & Joint’s Total Foot and Ankle team can help you treat your feet right. Call 800-445-6442 or make an appointment online to see Thomas Staysniak, DPM, or Paul Strobel, DPM.