The mere thought of having a wart can be enough to make some peoples’ skin crawl, but these growths are rather common and often harmless. Plantar warts are named as such because they are found on the feet, typically in areas that experience pressure. Learning more about them will help you understand where they come from and when to seek treatment.
Viral Infections: The Roots of Plantar Warts
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the virus responsible for plantar warts. HPV has over 100 different strains and the majority of them do not actually lead to warts on your feet. Even when the outer layer of your skin is infected by one that does, you may or may not end up with a wart. Everyone’s immune system reacts differently to HPV, so one person will develop plantar warts from exposure to a particular strain, whereas the next person might not.
The transmission of the responsible virus does not have to be direct for an individual to be infected. For this reason, a common path to infection comes from walking barefoot in an environment where HPV thrives. That said, another means of transmission is coming into contact with a wart. This can happen when you touch a wart and then a different part of your body or when a parent is attending to a child’s plantar wart.
Plantar Warts Are Generally Harmless, But …
Whereas a plantar wart is typically a benign (harmless) growth, it can lead to pain when you walk or stand. If the pain or discomfort is substantial, it may cause you to alter your gait and such changes can potentially lead to joint or muscle issues.
If you have diabetes, you should already be using a daily foot check as part of your diabetic foot care plan. When inspecting your feet, take note of the development of any warts and schedule an appointment with our office when you find one. You do not want to risk this leading to a serious medical complication.
Wart Treatment Options
If you want to “wait out” a plantar wart, you can certainly do so. These growths actually go away on their own, without any treatment. The catch, though, is that this can take up to a couple of years. There are a variety of reasons for wanting to remove them—they are causing pain, you have diabetes, warts make you self-conscious—and, fortunately, we can help.
Our office will work with you to ensure that your plantar warts are effectively and safely removed. Treatment options that we offer include prescription-strength medications and ointments and laser cautery for severe cases.
You may be tempted to try home remedies—retail stores and nationwide pharmacies often have over-the-counter kits for sale—but these only work about half of the time and provide the risk of damaging healthy skin around the wart. It is especially important not to try it on your own if you live with diabetes.
Tips for Preventing Plantar Warts
Plantar warts are quite common and most people will develop at least one during the course of their lives, but there are still measures you can take to decrease the risk. These include:
- Do not walk barefoot in places where the wart-causing virus is commonly found. Since HPV can thrive in the warm, damp environments provided by pool decks and gym locker rooms, be sure to wear sandals or shower shoes in such areas.
- Avoid making direct contact with warts, including your own. If you do come into contact with one, carefully and thoroughly wash the affected site and your hands. Additionally, do not pick at a wart, as doing so may spread the virus.
- Steps like changing your socks and shoes daily and keeping your feet clean and dry go a long way toward keeping your feet wart-free.
If plantar warts are causing you pain and discomfort, or you would rather not wait a couple of years for them to go away, contact Wisconsin Foot Center. We provide treatment for a wide range of foot and ankle conditions. Contact our southeastern Wisconsin office by calling (414) 425-8400 or using our online form to request an appointment today.
"Feel Good Feet: A User's Guide to Foot & Ankle Health"