Warts. The condition that is actually as unsightly as its name. While the pesky little growths can appear menacing, they are a benign (noncancerous) problem. Warts can appear on pretty much any part of the body, but it’s no surprise that we treat the ones that occur on feet–specifically plantar warts. These growths can pop up on the sole, heel, or ball of the foot, and are generally easily identifiable. Their rough and spongy appearance makes them stick out, and most are gray, brown, or yellow with dark pinpoints (which are typically tiny capillaries that supply blood to the wart). We know, sounds scary! The good news is, most plantar warts aren’t a very serious health concern, and can go away without treatment with self-care. However, you may need to have them removed by a doctor.
How do plantar warts come about?
Plantar warts can occur when the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) invades the body through the bottom of the feet, typically through cuts or breaks on the skin. This easily contractible virus can live on contaminated surfaces, such as tile floors of public lockers rooms, showers, and swimming pools. In some cases, the plantar warts can be transmitted to the feet from other areas of the body. This is called remote location seeding.
What are the symptoms of plantar warts?
In addition to their rough and spongy appearance, there are a few other characteristics to look out for:
- The growths can appear fleshy and rough.
- Thickened skin (otherwise known as a callus on the foot) over the wart if it has grown inward.
- Pain or tenderness when standing or walking.
There are a few risk factors associated with plantar warts, ranging from not-so serious to bigger problem.
- Repeated HPV exposure, like walking barefoot in public locker rooms and common public areas. It makes sense then, that children and teens are susceptible to warts.
- Having a weakened immune system (this can be due to a variety of conditions, from illnesses to immune-suppressing drugs).
When first diagnosed, individuals often feel a “lump” on the bottom of the foot when standing, similar to having a stone in a shoe. If left untreated, plantar warts can grow up to 1 inch in circumference and may spread into clusters called mosaic warts. In severe cases, they can cause a change in gait or posture that results in leg or back pain–our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.
What are the prevention/treatment options?
While these plantar warts are certainly pests, there are a number of ways to get rid of them–from self care to in-office methods.
As with most conditions, hygiene is key. Always wash your hands if you touch a wart, as they can spread through self-inoculation.
- Keep your feet clean and dry. This is a general rule, since viruses and fungi love wet surfaces.
- Don’t walk barefoot in places you might pick the virus up–bring a pair of sandals along!
- Although tempting, don’t pick or scratch the warts! This will only make it worse.
- Salicylic acid has been used for a long time to treat warts. Over the counter products exist, but you may been a prescription-strength wart medication. This solution works by removing layers of the warts over time, and may stimulate your body’s natural immune system response. This medicine should be applied regularly.
- Cryotherapy is done at your doctor’s office. It essentially involved “freezing the wart to death.” Liquid nitrogen is applied to the wart, either with spray or swab. This product can also be found over the counter, but the desired cold temperature needed to effectively kill of warts is only found in a professional’s office. The chemical (liquid nitrogen) will cause a blister to form around the wart, and the dead tissue will eventually fall off. Note: it may take a few cryotherapy sessions to fully get rid of the warts.
- Immune therapy medication/solutions can be applied into the wart. This causes a foreign body reaction and may stimulate your body to fight off the wart.
- Minor surgery is usually not needed, but if treatment isn’t working–it can be a good and effective option.
- Laser therapy can help to burn off tiny blood vessels until the wart falls off.
If you think you might have plantar warts, or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give our office a call and schedule an appointment. We will work with you to find the most effective treatment option–and help you say goodbye to warts!