What are Plantar Warts?
Plantar warts appear in the form of skin growth on the soles of your feet. They can be hard on the surface and painful to touch. They often grow on your heels. But they can also appear on other areas of your feet.
Plantar warts can also grow inward in your feet, mostly if your soles are covered by a callus or a hardened skin area. When left untreated, these warts can cause pain and discomfort. These sensations are most noticeable when you put pressure over your feet.
In general, warts are raised bumps on your skin caused by HPV (the Human Papillomavirus) and have been annoying people for thousands of years. They are usually not dangerous but can be painful, embarrassing, and potentially contagious.
Plantar warts, specifically, grow on the soles of your feet and, unlike other types of warts, grow into your skin rather than out from it. The HPV infection enters your body through tiny cuts on the bottom of the foot, and from there, warts will grow. The typical appearance of plantar warts is a small hole or lesion in the bottom of your foot, usually at the base of your toes and forefoot or heel. The skin around it will be thick and hard, and there may be black pinpoints near it. The wart may cause pain while you walk or stand.
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What Causes Plantar Warts?
Plantar warts are caused by human papillomavirus infection (HPV). But they aren't associated with the type of HPV that is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
HPV is a common virus that exists in several variations. Some types of HPV can cause warts to form on other parts of your body. But there are only a few kinds of HPV that can cause plantar warts.
The type of virus that causes plantar warts transmits through the surface of your feet's skin. This often happens if your feet' skin has cuts or breaks when exposed to the virus.
The type of HPV that causes plantar warts is not contagious enough to make person-to-person transmission very easy. With that being said, it is still possible.
Most plantar warts are spread through the method of surface transmission. If an infected person touches another surface such as the bathroom floor, anyone who comes in contact with it afterward runs the risk of forming plantar warts.
This particular HPV is often found in moist environments. If you contact a wet surface with the virus, it can cause plantar warts to form on your feet. But it heavily depends upon your immune system and its reaction to the particular HPV.
Plantar Wart Symptoms
The most common symptom of plantar warts is a circular and rough growth at the sole of your foot. It is most evident in pressure-prone areas, such as your heels, your toes, and your feet' balls. It is a lighter color than the skin of your soles and seems hard to the touch. This growth is known as plantar warts or foot warts.
You may also develop black pin-like lesions on your sole. They appear in patches and are easily visible against your skin. These are clotted blood vessels that change their appearance due to the HPV that causes plantar warts.
Pain, tenderness, and discomfort while walking or standing is another common symptom of plantar warts. The ache can subside when you are resting, but it can come back once you pressure your feet again.
Are Plantar Warts Contagious?
Plantar warts are not highly contagious in terms of human to human transmission. However, their transmission from an infected surface to a patient's foot is more prevalent. If anyone has the type of HPV that causes plantar warts, they can infect others through second-hand transmission via surfaces such as swimming pool floors.
With that being said, not everyone has the same reaction over HPV transfer. Some people don't develop plantar warts despite coming in contact with an infected site. But others form on these skin growths shortly after being infected with the specific HPV. It all depends upon the person's immune system and how their body reacts to the virus that causes plantar warts.
Do Plantar Warts Hurt to Walk On
Plantar warts often form on those areas of your feet that support your weight while you are walking or standing. As a result, putting extra pressure on these skin growths during your walks can result in pain. This also holds for plantar warts that grow inward due to a callus or a hardened skin surface on your feet.
The sensation of walking with plantar warts is often described as walking on a rough path. It is highly uncomfortable and painful. This feeling can become more intense if there are multiple plantar warts on your feet.
Do Plantar Warts Need to Be Removed
Plantar warts typically don't need medical intervention and go away on their own. However, this can take some time. In some cases, this can mean more than a year of living with these skin growths on your feet.
If your plantar warts are incredibly painful and make it difficult for you to stand or walk, it is a sign to seek medical attention. If you ignore these symptoms, these warts can affect your daily life and make it difficult for you to participate in regular activities. Having multiple plantar warts on your feet that keep spreading with time is another reason to contact healthcare professionals.
Plantar warts can be removed through multiple remedies, with minimally invasive methods being the first treatment line. But if your plantar warts do not react to these methods, more intensive procedures are used to remove these warts from your feet.
Plantar Warts Prevention
For the most part, plantar warts can go away without treatment, though it may be a painful process for that time. However, if you experience bleeding at the lesion site, extreme pain, or changes in color or appearance of the wart, it may be time to consult a foot care specialist.
Additionally, if you have tried home remedies for your wart and it persists or gets worse, you may need a doctor to remove it. Those with weakened immune systems or conditions such as diabetes should consult a physician to determine the best treatment course for your plantar warts. If left untreated, warts could have a severe impact on your gait or posture.
You can prevent plantar warts by keeping a few practices in mind. These tips are also helpful if you already have plantar warts and want to limit their spread on your feet.
- Don't touch a wart directly. It would help if you stayed away from connecting an infected person's warts with your hands or feet. If you have plantar warts on your own feet, you should also avoid touching them.
- Don't walk barefoot in moist environments. Make it a practice to wear your sandals or other footwear while walking around swimming pools or locker rooms.
- Don't use the same cleaning equipment. If you have plantar warts, make sure not to use the same cleaning brush or pumice stone as your feet' other areas.
- Don't scratch or pick at warts. Having plantar warts can cause you to touch them frequently. Avoid this practice at all costs and wash your hands after each contact.
- Wear clean socks and shoes. Make sure to change your socks every day. You should also air dry your shoes if they become moist with sweat.
These practices lower the chances of contracting the HPV that causes plantar warts. It also helps in limiting the spread of these foot warts if you already have the infection.
How to Get Rid of Plantar Warts
Plantar warts typically go away on their own. But if there are several warts on your feet or particularly painful, it's essential to take active measures to get rid of them.
Thankfully, you can turn to various methods to be free of this painful condition. These options include topical treatments, targeted processes, and surgical procedures. Depending upon your plantar warts' severity, your healthcare professional can recommend the most suitable approach for you.
Plantar Warts Treatment and Surgical Options
There are various plantar warts treatment options available for people of all ages. But given that the severity of these foot warts can depend from person to person, it is best to choose a treatment method after consulting with a healthcare expert.
With that in mind, the most common plantar warts treatments include the following approaches:
This method includes over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, which are available without a prescription. These OTC products usually include salicylic acid, known as the most effective topical treatment method against foot warts.
You can get these OTC products in the form of pads, creams, or gels. Results typically show within a few weeks. However, it can take up to 3 months for your plantar warts to disappear completely. If you consult with a doctor, you can get more reliable topical treatments to use at home.
With that being said, plantar warts can return if the virus underneath your skin does not go away completely.
Targeted processes typically require access to a medical setting or specialized equipment. This is why they can only be performed with the help of a healthcare professional.
Cryotherapy is the process of "freezing" your warts using a careful application of liquid nitrogen. Since the procedure is painful, your doctor first numbs the area around warts before applying liquid nitrogen.
This causes your warts to freeze, get weakened, and fall off within a week. But the process often requires you to do multiple visits to ensure your plantar warts do not return. You may also need to apply non-liquid nitrogen topical treatments at home between these visits.
Unlike salicylic acid, this particular acid is applied only by a healthcare professional. In this application, your doctor first needs to strip off your wart's surface skin before putting trichloroacetic acid on it.
The procedure often requires weekly treatments to work and shows results within a few weeks. In most cases, you also need to continue topical treatments of salicylic acid in-between visits.
Your doctor may also suggest injecting antigens or specialized medication to trigger targeted immune responses to your warts. This process is not as widely used, but it may deliver results within a few weeks. You typically also require follow-up visits to ensure that the treatment is working properly.
Surgical procedures for the treatment of plantar warts are only applied when you cannot get rid of these foot warts with other treatments.
In this procedure, your doctor numbs your feet before removing your plantar warts using specialized equipment. This process can cause scarring and pain.
This process requires your doctor to cauterize any blood vessels that are supplying blood to plantar warts. This causes the wart tissue to die and eventually fall off of your feet. However, this process can also cause scarring and pain.
Despite their intensive nature, surgical procedures are incredibly helpful in resolving severe plantar warts. Once again, the best approach to treating plantar warts can only be determined after a health professional consultation. To make sure that you are seeking proper medical advice, don't hesitate to contact your doctor.
Need Help With Your Plantar Wart? Come in for a Consultation!
Reach out to us at Rogers Foot and Ankle Institute, and we will help you out as soon as we can! The doctors at Rogers Foot & Ankle Institute can diagnose and treat this condition quickly! We also treat various foot and ankle problems, including gait problems, bunion foot pain, heel spurs, and hammertoes.