Having warts on your feet can be embarrassing, which can lead to limiting footwear, it can also be painful when they are located on areas of high pressure such as the bottom of the foot, the heel, or the toes. This pain can lead you to decrease your activity level or cause you to avoid some activities altogether that involve walking or running. Who wants to miss out on life’s adventures or be restricted because of annoying plantar warts? The good news is that you can treat them and get rid of them with a fair amount of ease.
Plantar Warts, what are they?
There are many skin lesions on the foot that mimic warts, for example, simple calluses and corns(from increased friction to the skin), foreign bodies (like an old splinter that never worked its way out), and clogged up pores or sweat glands (from dirt or dead skin) but warts are actually caused by a virus, the human papilloma virus or HPV.
How do I recognize a plantar wart?
Plantar warts have a few distinct features that can help you distinguish them from other skin lesions of the foot. They tend to have a hard cauliflower like appearance which is thicker than normal skin and many times they have little black dots on their surface which are actually scabs from numerous broken blood vessels contained in the wart (when you walk or apply pressure to the wart the blood vessels break and your body develops the scabs, they are not seeds or cores as many people think). Another distinct feature is that when you push on the wart or especially when you pinch the wart it is painful. A callus usually isn’t painful when you pinch it. Warts can present as solitary lesions that can be flat or slightly raised, get larger over time, and can form additional lesions away from the original wart, called satellite lesions. They can also present in a mosaic pattern in which there will be several clusters of small warts that grow close together and even look to be overlapping each other.
How do I treat and get rid of the plantar wart?
What can you do?
The good news about plantar warts is that many times they resolve and go away on their ownbut the bad news is that it can take a long time, over year, for that to happen. Most people want to get rid of them faster especially when they are painful. First line treatments are use of topical over-the-counter medications and good hygiene. Remember that a wart is caused by a virus so it can not only spread to other parts of your feet but it can spread to other people therefore washing your feet, changing your socks, and disinfecting your footwear is important in preventing the spread of the warts.
What should you avoid trying?
You should not try to cut warts out on your own as you can injury yourself or cause an infection. Also, picking at the wart can spread the wart virus to other parts of the foot or even to your hands. Avoid home remedies as they have not been proven and could cause harm.
What will your doctor do?
If first line treatments do not resolve the warts or if you want to get rid of them quickly you should see your foot doctor. There are many options for treating plantar warts. One of the most common methods is using a strong topical prescription of Salicylic acid that will be applied to the wart and covered daily along with weekly trimming of the wart at the doctor’s office. An oral medication is sometimes also used in addition to the topical treatments. This treatment is the least aggressive and the least painful but may take a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on the size and location of the wart. Other treatments include laser and cryotherapy. These modalities use heat and cold to destroy the warty tissue including the blood supply which ultimately leads to the death of the warty skin as well as the virus. This treatment can be painful when implemented and there can be some pain during recovery which usually takes a couple weeks. Sometimes more than one treatment is needed. If those treatments have not removed the wart sometimes surgery is an option. The procedure to remove a wart can be performed in the office quickly. It consists of numbing the wart and cutting the wart out of the foot. This treatment should remove the wart completely and the wound will need to be covered and kept clean until it is healed which typically takes 2-3 weeks. If these treatments do not resolve the problem then a biopsy of the lesion will need to be performed, if not already done, to rule out other underlying causes of the wart like lesion.