When you think of a wart, you might conjure up the image of a cartoon witch with a large wart at the tip of her nose. But did you know you can get warts on the bottom of your feet?
Plantar warts are small, non-cancerous growths that can develop on the soles or balls of your feet. These warts, caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), can be contracted through cuts or open sores on your feet, or even on undamaged skin. There are more than 100 strains of HPV, but only a few of them cause warts on the feet. The strain that causes plantar warts breeds in warm, moist environments such as public pools, locker rooms, or showers, so walking barefoot in these places can put you at a greater risk for developing a plantar wart.
So how do you know if you have a plantar wart?
They can sometimes be mistaken for a callus because they are typically flat with thick, tough skin. Some people experience pain at the site of the wart or feel like they have a small rock in their shoe. Some plantar warts have tiny black dots referred to as wart “seeds” which are actually small blood vessels that have grown up into the wart. Plantar warts can also appear in clusters and those are referred to as Mosaic warts.
If you are not sure that you have a plantar wart, it’s causing discomfort, or you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider so they can examine your foot and review your symptoms.
Plantar warts are not serious; if you’re not experiencing any pain, treatment may not be necessary. They will often disappear on their own but it can take anywhere from a few months to several years. The good news is that plantar warts can usually be treated at home with over-the-counter medication. Salicylic acid products, such as Compound W®, come in a gel, liquid, or pads and are applied topically according to the package directions. You should never attempt to cut a plantar wart off your foot.
If over-the-counter remedies don’t work, your doctor can perform treatment in the office with a stronger medication containing salicylic or trichloracetic acid or by freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen. In some cases, minor surgery or laser treatment is needed to remove the wart.
Not everyone who comes in contact with HPV will develop a plantar wart, but you can avoid getting or spreading one by following a few simple suggestions:
Unfortunately, plantar warts can reoccur because most treatments eliminate the wart but not the virus that causes them. If you have recurring plantar warts, it is best to talk with your doctor about a treatment plan.