Plantar Warts – What are they?

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Plantar Warts (and probably some stuff you didn’t!)

What exactly is/are Plantar Wart(s)?

There is some confusion centered around these little blemishes.  Is it really a wart, or could it be something else?  How on earth did I get it?  And how can I get rid of the ugly thing?? Read on to understand what they are and how to deal with them.

 Viral Infection

Plantar Warts, simply put, are a viral infection within the skin.  They are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).  Some are painful, some are not.  It depends on where your wart(s) develop.  Warts that are on the sole of your foot (plantar warts) can be very uncomfortable due the pressure they sustain.  The feeling has been described as though there is a rock in your shoe.

 Physical Identifiers:
  1. They appear as small growths that will look like little black dots at first. Caution: the black dot is not a ‘seed’ or a ‘root’, and you won’t be able to dig it out.  It is the end of a capillary blood vessel.
  2. They are usually flat with a smooth surface and will be gray/yellow or brownish in color.
  3. Plantar warts usually appear on the heel and/or ball of the foot or other areas that sustain pressure.
  4. They are small, grainy and rough, with well-defined edges.
  5. You may have one or two isolated warts, but they can also appear in clusters.

 How Did I get a wart?

The virus starts as an infection that gains access to your skin through direct contact with the virus.  The contact can come from skin-to-skin contact or by touching a contaminated surface.  However, this particular virus is not highly contagious from one person to another.  It may be transferred from a surface that an infected person touched, and then you come along and touch that same surface.  In the case of plantar warts, you may walk on a surface where an infected person has trod, and the virus spreads to your foot/feet.  These microscopic invaders look for any opening in the skin and then they set up shop!

There are more than 100 kinds of the HPV virus that exist, therefore it is very common.  However, only a few of them will cause warts on the feet.  And not everyone who comes in contact with the virus will develop warts.  Different people will respond differently to HPV.  Although people who have weaker immune systems such as children, seniors or those with diabetes or organ transplants, are more likely to develop warts after an infection.

 What do I do if I get a wart?

Most plantar warts are not a serious health concern, and as long as your immune system isn’t napping on the job, they may eventually go away on their own.  Be advised, however, that ‘eventually’ could mean years!  Warts disappearing on their own is called spontaneous remission.  If they don’t go away on their own, they can grow and spread.  Some grow into large clusters which can become very painful.  It is important not to scratch the area, as blood from the wart will contain the virus and spread it to other areas of your body.

Most home remedies and over-the-counter medicines are not that effective.  And applying the chemicals to your feet that are present in these remedies is not a good idea, as it can damage your healthy skin.  It is often best to seek professional treatment as soon as you notice the signs of a growth.

 Signs to see a doctor

You will want to see your doctor if the following take place or are present:

  1. You notice an abnormal skin lesion that is suddenly present.
  2. The area is bleeding or painful, or if it has changed in appearance.
  3. You have tried over-the-counter remedies but the warts persist, multiply or recur.
  4. You have diabetes or poor sensation in your feet.
  5. Your immune system is weakened.
  6. You aren’t sure if the lesion is a wart or not.

 So how does a Podiatrist treat these things??

Warts lie deep within the skin layers and they are great at shielding themselves so that the body can’t detect them.   The treatment options can be a trade-off between the effectiveness of the treatment and the invasiveness of it.  The more gentle treatments won’t cause pain or other side effects, however, they may require several sessions and a bit of time.  More aggressive treatments will work quickly, however, they are more likely to be painful and/or come with complications.

Other things that will be considered along with your treatment include age, health status, how many warts you have, their size and location, etc.  Kansas City Foot and Ankle doctors will go over all of the treatment options and discuss the pros and cons of each so that you can make an informed choice as to the best treatment for you!

 I don’t want a wart!

If this is the case (which it probably is!!), the top of the list would be to never walk barefoot in any warm, damp area.  This includes all public lockers rooms, showers, pools/water parks.  Any area that is consistently damp is a breeding ground for all sorts of viruses.  If you are in these areas, always protect your skin by wearing some sort of foot covering.  This will prevent you from coming in contact with the virus, should it be present.  Wearing clean, dry socks and using a good foot powder will also help keep your feet virus-free.

Make sure that you avoid all direct contact with other peoples’ warts, as well as your own.  If they bleed at all, make sure that you cover and contain them.  Always wash your hands thoroughly after treating your wart or touching it.

A wart can be confused with many other skin conditions including blisters, skin tags, corns, calluses, clogged sweat glands, or cysts.  This is why it is necessary to have it properly diagnosed before considering treatment.  Our specialists at Kansas City Foot and Ankle will take the time to properly diagnose your condition and discuss treatment options that are right for you.