Plantar warts, also known as veruccae plantaris, are a buildup of skin on the bottom of your foot. Plantar warts are benign skin growths caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. This virus enters your body through small cuts or breaks in the skin of your feet. The buildup of thick, irregular skin on the bottom of your feet that characterizes plantar warts is sometimes confused with calluses, due to their similar appearance. But calluses are caused by rubbing or friction, not a viral infection.
Calluses on the bottom of your feet most commonly develop under weight-bearing bones, such as your metatarsal bones in the balls of your feet. Plantar warts may develop in any part of the skin of your feet. This information can be helpful in differentiating plantar warts from calluses. Calluses usually hurt when direct pressure is placed upon them, whereas warts often hurt when they are squeezed or when side to side pressure is applied.
Most warts, including plantar warts, are round or oval growths that are raised from your skin and possess a rough surface. Warts, relative to normal skin, can be lighter or darker in color. Some warts may even be black.
Plantar warts that grow beneath pressure points in your feet, such as your heels or the balls of your feet, may grow inward under a callus. Most plantar warts are not serious and may not need treatment. In some cases, however, plantar warts may cause pain or discomfort. Some warts will resolve without treatment, although this process may take up to two years. Warts that disappear, treated or otherwise, frequently recur. Any type of wart can spread to another part of your body.
Causes and Symptoms
The HPV virus is the cause of plantar warts. Over 100 types of HPV exist, although only several types have been linked to plantar warts. Plantar warts can manifest in people of all ages, although children and teenagers and people with low immune function are more likely to develop this health problem.
Possible signs and symptoms associated with plantar warts include:
- Small growths on the bottom of your feet
- Calluses on the sole of your feet, where your wart has grown inward
- Small, clotted blood vessels that look like black pinpoints and are called wart seeds
- Alterations in the normal texture of your feet’s skin
- Pain or tenderness with weight-bearing activities
Attempts to rebalance your feet will not be successful in treating plantar warts, as warts are caused by a viral infection. The virus must be destroyed. Many methods may be used to achieve this health goal, including the use of topical acid preparations, such as salicylic acid.
Salicylic acid helps destroy the layers of skin that the HPV virus lives in, along with destroying the virus itself. Topical preparations usually work better if they are used under occlusion. Occlusion involves covering the acid with tape or bandaging to hold the acid in place. The acid will be rubbed away by socks and shoes if tape or bandages are not used to cover it.
Some warts may be eliminated by using laser therapy or electrocautery to burn the wart and surrounding tissue. Cryotherapy or liquid nitrogen therapy attempts to kill the HPV virus by freezing it to death.
Some warts may also respond to surgical techniques, such as excision and curettage. Excision involves cutting out your wart and the surrounding skin, while curettage involves scooping the wart tissue out of the deep layers of skin.
Certain oral medications may alter your immune system to improve your body’s ability to rid itself of warts. Surgical implantation of wart tissue into a separate part of your body may also stimulate your body to get rid of your original wart.
The use of duct tape is a conservative care method for eliminating warts and has shown to be effective in treating plantar warts. It is believed that duct tape suffocates warts, which require air to survive. Several different protocols involving the use of duct tape have been used for this health purpose. Speak with your podiatrist about these protocols before using duct tape to help treat your plantar warts.
It is always helpful to keep the skin of your feet dry. Using acrylic socks, putting powder in your shoes, and drying your shoes after using them are all beneficial strategies to help keep your feet dry.
You should see your podiatrist if you are unsure whether your growth is a wart or a callus. Misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment methods by an unqualified individual may lead to unnecessary scarring, spread of your virus to other sites, and prolonged pain and disability.
In his 18 years as a podiatrist, Dr. Ray McClanahan has learned that most foot problems can be corr...