What Are Warts?
Warts are lesions caused by a virus. They often appear as raised bumps with a rough texture. Warts can appear anywhere on the body. When they occur on the soles of the feet, they are referred to as plantar warts.
Plantar warts are usually hard and flat, with a rough or grainy surface, and may grow beneath a thick layer of skin or a callus.
Children and teenagers seem to be more susceptible to warts than adults, although some people seem to be immune. People with weakened immune systems and those who have previously had warts are also more susceptible.
Complications Due To Plantar Warts
Warts are typically harmless but may be painful. Pain is especially common when warts occur on weight-bearing areas of the foot, such as the ball of the foot or the heel.
In some cases, plantar warts can lead to other complications. If warts become extremely painful, they can affect a person’s posture or gait. Over time, these changes in how a person stands or walks can lead to joint discomfort or muscle pain. If patients experience a painful wart, having it removed will reduce their risk of these types of complications.
Warts are also highly contagious and can spread to other areas of the foot, forming clusters, or they can spread from one person to another through direct contact or from shared spaces such as showers and bathrooms.
Causes and Symptoms of Warts
Warts are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Like any virus, warts are spread through contact. The virus enters the body through tiny cuts or cracks on the bottom of the foot. This can occur when walking barefoot on surfaces where the virus is present. The virus thrives in warm and moist environments, making locker rooms and swimming pools a common source of infection.
It can take as long as six months to develop a wart after the skin has come into contact with the virus, making it difficult to identify the source of the infection. Individuals can reduce their chances of contracting a wart by avoiding walking barefoot, especially in public spaces. Keeping the feet clean and dry can also help.
Symptoms of plantar warts include:
- Small, fleshy growths on the bottom of the foot, which may be rough or grainy.
- Hard, thickened skin, where a wart has grown inward.
- Black pinpoints in the center of the growth, which are clotted blood vessels.
Warts are often mistaken for corns or calluses, which are buildups of dead skin. However, warts typically have well-defined boundaries. Attempting to remove them with a foot file may be painful and may cause bleeding.
Forms of Plantar Warts
Plantar warts can be solitary or mosaic.
A solitary wart is a single wart, which may increase in size and multiply.
Mosaic warts occur when a wart spreads and forms a cluster of several small warts. Mosaic warts are typically more difficult to treat than solitary warts.
Plantar Wart Diagnosis and Treatment
Accurate diagnosis is necessary for proper treatment of a wart. Other lesions can appear on the foot, such as carcinomas and melanomas. While these conditions are rare, they can sometimes be mistaken for warts. Any suspicious growths on the foot should be examined by a foot specialist to rule out a more serious condition.
Warts can be resistant to treatment and may return after treatment. Over-the-counter treatments are available but may take as long as two years to fully eliminate the wart, and repeated treatments may be necessary. Over-the-counter treatments should not be used by anyone with an active infection. Individuals with diabetes or circulatory problems should be especially careful when attempting to treat a wart.
Other wart treatments involve prescription-strength salicylic acid, which can be applied at home, or cryotherapy, which causes a blister to form around the wart. A combination of these treatments may be the most effective approach.
Warts can also be removed by a podiatrist with a surgical procedure, performed under local anesthetic, in which the wart is cut away or the tissue burned with a laser or cautery.
Individuals who suspect they have a wart or anyone with a wart that is not responding to home treatment should consult a podiatrist.