If you’re like most people, you’ve probably had warts. You know how embarrassing they can be. And if you’ve had them on the bottom of your feet, you’ve likely experienced some pain or irritation. These warts are called plantar warts.
If you or a loved one has them right now, you’re probably wondering how you can get rid of them. Let’s dive in and learn more about them first.
What Are Plantar Warts?
Plantar warts or verrucas are skin lesions. Plantar means “sole of the foot” giving plantar warts their name. However, you can also get plantar warts on top of your feet and on your toes. Pressure from bearing weight on warts can cause hard callused skin to grow over them. That’s why they are sometimes mistaken for corns or calluses. While warts are harmless, they can also be very painful.
Causes and Risk Factors for Plantar Warts
Plantar warts are caused by HPV or the Human Papilloma Virus. The virus that causes plantar warts thrives in warm, moist environments. That’s why our shoes, public pools, and locker rooms are a perfect breeding ground for warts. Places where people tend to go barefoot, like yoga, gymnastics, and martial art studios, are also hotbeds for spreading the virus.
Like any other infectious lesion, plantar warts are spread by touching, scratching, or by sharing towels, razors, or other personal items. And you can spread them to other parts of your body as well. While they are contagious, not everyone who comes into contact with warts will get them.
People most at risk for warts are children, elderly people, and those with a weakened immune system such as those with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Also, because HPV requires an entry point into the body, those with recurring cuts, cracks, or scrapes on their feet are more likely to get infected.
Plantar Wart Symptoms
After exposure to HPV, it can take many months of growth before you’ll notice a wart. Plantar warts that develop on places where you bear weight, such as the ball or heel of the foot, can cause a sharp, burning pain. While pain typically occurs with standing and walking, pressure on the side of a wart can also create intense pain. The number and size of warts can also influence the pain you experience, with increasing pain with greater number and size.
Plantar warts can vary greatly in their appearance and can appear at the base of the toes, ball of the feet or the heel.
They can show up as:
- Fleshy, rough, grainy lesions
- Hard and flat lesions, with a rough surface and well-defined boundaries
- Gray or brown lesions (but the color may vary), with pinpoints of black in the center
Diagnosing Plantar Warts
Dr. Berg will examine your wart and sometimes remove a small section to send to a lab to rule out other types of skin growths, like cancer.
Treatments for Plantar Warts in Seattle
While there are many old wives tales about treatment of warts, there are specific treatments podiatrists use in their offices. However, if you want to try some home treatments you can.
Home Remedies for Plantar Warts
First, you should only attempt to treat warts at home if you do not have a weakened immune system. Anyone with diabetes or cancer should avoid these remedies. Salicylic acid is the active ingredient in many home remedies for warts. They work by removing layers of the wart a little at a time. Other treatments aim to freeze the wart, but these treatments are flammable.
While in theory treating your warts at home sounds like a good idea, warts can be very resistant to home treatment and they tend to recur. In addition, at home treatments require daily and often messy application and they can destroy healthy tissue. You can skip all the fuss and muss and come see us instead.
In Office Treatment
In the past our office has used chemical treatment to eliminate warts. Other offices use cryotherapy to freeze them or surgery to cut them out. But these treatments can be quite painful and can leave unsightly scars on your skin.
Fortunately, we now have a revolutionary treatment for warts that uses low-powered microwave energy. This new treatment is called Swift.
Swift is a new technology for treatment of warts and other skin lesions that was developed in the United Kingdom. It’s only been available in the United States since 2019. We are proud to be the first office in Seattle to offer this new treatment.
Unlike other systems for removing warts, treatment with Swift is fast with only brief discomfort. Learn more about how this amazing treatment is used to treat warts.
Prevention of Warts
Like any condition that spreads it’s best to avoid the situations that put you at risk. At the very least you can take measures to prevent infection.
To prevent the spread of warts, follow these tips:
- Avoid direct contact with warts, both from other persons or from other parts of the body.
- Avoid walking barefoot, except on sandy beaches.
- Change your shoes and socks daily.
- Check your children's feet periodically.
- Keep your feet clean and dry.
- Wear flip flops in locker rooms and public showers.
- Bring your own yoga mat to class.
- Talk to the owners of your gymnastic or martial arts center to be sure mats are disinfected on a regular basis. Have your child thoroughly wash their feet after class.
- Wear socks when travelling through airports