The pressure on the bottom of the feet from standing and walking may also cause plantar warts to grow inward beneath a callus (a hard, thick layer of skin). If the virus spreads from the first site of infection, additional warts may appear, and the original wart will grow in size over time.
Those that are most prone to plantar warts include children and teenagers, people with weakened immune systems and those who have had prior plantar warts. The virus that cause plantar warts thrive in warm, moist environments so people who share gym or athletic facilities or who engage in group activities where bare feet are the rule, such as yoga and martial arts, are more likely to contract the virus.
Some people mistakenly think plantar warts are malignant. In reality, plantar warts very rarely become malignant. Eventually, in about two years, most warts go away without treatment. Warts can, however, cause irritation or pain, depending on their location.
What causes plantar warts?
Plantar warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). The very common virus enters your body through tiny cuts, breaks or other weak spots on the bottom of your feet. Like other viral infections, plantar warts are contagious, commonly spread in public swimming pools, communal showers, or even your shower at home.
When skin cells become infected with HPV, the virus tends to make them grow faster than the cells in surrounding areas, causing a wart to form. There are more than 100 strains of the HPV virus, but only a few of them cause warts on the feet. Other types of HPV are more likely to cause warts on other areas of your skin or on mucous membranes.
Most plantar warts aren’t a serious health concern and may go away without treatment eventually. You may want to try self-care treatments first. If unsuccessful, you may want to see one of our doctors to have the warts removed.
Unlike warts on other parts of your body, plantar warts usually grow into your skin instead of out from it. That’s because your body weight exerts pressure on the soles of your feet where they typically appear. Plantar wart signs and symptoms include:
- Pain or tenderness when walking or standing
- Hard, thickened skin (callus) over a well-defined spot on the skin, where a wart has grown inward
- A small, fleshy, rough, grainy growth (lesion) on the bottom of your foot, usually the base of the toes and forefoot or the heel
- Black pinpoints, which are commonly called wart seeds but are actually small, clotted blood vessels
- A lesion that interrupts the normal lines and ridges in the skin of your foot
How are plantar warts diagnosed and treated?
Plantar warts often look similar to corns and calluses — layers of skin that develop to protect areas of the skin from friction and pressure. In most cases you shouldn’t need to see a doctor about a wart. If you want a quick treatment option, try one of the many home remedies to remove the wart. Over-the-counter wart treatments work about half the time, and they’re fairly quick and inexpensive. Most at-home treatments peel away the wart layer by layer, so it may take some time. These OTC treatments are more successful of warts on the side or top of the foot, rather than plantar warts on the bottom of the foot.
You should, however, contact your doctor for treatment options if the wart becomes painful or doesn’t go away using home remedies. You should also see your doctor about warts , and not use the OTC wart removal remedies, if you have diabetes, poor circulation or lack of feeling in your feet, signs of infection, or a weakened immune system.
Your doctor at Augusta Foot & Ankle, PC can usually make a visual diagnosis during your appointment. In some cases, he may take a skin sample of the wart and send it to a laboratory for testing. This procedure is called a biopsy.
If home remedies and time have failed, some options your doctor might recommend include:
- Acid applications: removes layers of your wart and triggers your immune system
- Cryotherapy: freezes the wart with liquid nitrogen to kill the wart and stimulate your immune system
- Laser treatment: destroys the wart with heat
- Cantharidin (beetle juice): a blistering medication applied
These topical treatments often resolve your wart in one or two treatments. In rare cases, your doctor might recommend a minor office surgery to remove the wart.
To learn more about treatment options for plantar warts, call Augusta Foot & Ankle, PC to schedule an appointment today.