“I’ve got warts.” Most people don’t like to say this out loud because of the negative stigma it carries. Plantar warts – those small, ugly skin growths that appear on the bottoms of feet – can be frustrating, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and in some cases even painful. Although hard to eliminate, plantar warts can be treated.
What Causes Plantar Warts?
Plantar warts are caused by specific strains of the human papillomavirus, commonly referred to as HPV. They develop when the virus enters a tiny break in the skin created by scratches or cuts and manifest as lesions on the skin that can have a cauliflower-like appearance. While some strains of HPV can be prevented with vaccines, the strain that causes plantar warts cannot. It thrives in moist, warm environments, so communal showers, swimming pools, saunas, and locker rooms are all areas where you should exercise extra caution, such as wearing shoes. To reduce your risk of getting plantar warts, avoid contact with warts – including your own. Keep your feet clean and dry, and change your shoes and socks regularly. Also, avoid walking barefoot where the HPV virus can thrive.
How do I Know I Have Them?
You’ll probably notice you have plantar warts when you see them. They appear as small, rough, grainy, and fleshy growths on the bottom of your feet, usually at the base of the toes or on the heel – parts of your foot that tend to make contact with the ground and also support most of your weight. Sometimes, people don’t see them at first. Because of the amount of pressure put on these particular areas of your feet, it’s not unusual for the warts to be pressed inward while a thick callus forms over them. This can be painful and a sign that something isn’t right. Apart from seeing the wart, or feeling pain, you can also look for black pinpoints in your skin. These are small clotted blood vessels that indicate where a plantar wart is. You can also look carefully at the striations of your foot. If there’s a lesion that interrupts the normal lines and ridges of your foot, chances are it’s a plantar wart.
How Do I Get Rid of Them?
Plantar warts are harmless. They don’t transform into cancer or cause permanent deformities. They usually go away on their own within a couple of years, although due to their unsightliness, most people don’t want to wait that long, especially if pain is involved.
See your doctor if plantar warts:
- Aren’t getting better on their own or after home treatment
- Are causing discomfort that interferes with daily activity
Once you’re at your doctor’s office, he or she will determine whether you have plantar warts. If you do, there are several ways the warts can be treated. Prescription medication is usually tried first, followed by salicylic acid. Another treatment option called cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze plantar warts, destroying the infected tissue. If freezing them doesn’t work, surgery may be recommended, which is usually performed in the exam room. Sometimes a laser procedure to vaporize the infected tissue can help.
Dr. Dillard is a board-certified podiatrist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Meyerland Plaza Clinic, Cypress Clinic, and Tanglewood Clinic. Her clinical interests include diabetic foot and wound care and all aspects of comprehensive foot and ankle treatment.