Overview and Facts about Plantar Warts
Plantar warts, an orthopaedic condition, are simply warts that develop on the sole of the foot, specifically on the plantar surface, which is the area where the bottom of the foot comes in contact with the ground. Although these warts can develop anywhere on the plantar surface, they’re most often found where the pressure and fiction is the greatest, such as on the heel or the ball of the foot.
Despite being a source of sensitivity and discomfort, plantar warts are harmless, and most go away on their own after a period of time.
Signs and Symptoms of Plantar Warts
The most distinguishable symptom of plantar warts are the warts themselves, which form rough and bumpy lesions over a thickened area of the sole. These warts may be skin-colored, gray, yellow, or brown. They may also appear spongy or scaly. There will often be a very small, pinpoint black spot in the middle of the wart as well. This spot is a blood clot in a capillary, deep within the skin.
Pain or tenderness may also appear at the wart site.
Causes and Risk Factors of Plantar Warts
Like all warts, plantar warts are caused by a viral skin infection of the human papillomavirus (HPV). For plantar warts specifically, HPV types 57, 27, and 1a are the most common culprits. The virus is obtained through direct contact and is most often found in areas that are likely to be contaminated by others, like communal showers or public swimming areas.
The most common group of people to get plantar warts are children between 12 and 16 years old. Other people with a higher risk of developing plantar warts include those who:
- Use public showers
- Have skin trauma on the feet
- Have a weakened immune system
Tests and Diagnosis of Plantar Warts
Most doctors diagnose plantar warts after a physical examination of the foot. In rare cases where the doctor can’t determine if the growth is a plantar wart, they may take a tissue sample and have it tested. To do this, the doctor injects a numbing agent into the foot and uses a scalpel to remove a small tissue sample, called a biopsy. This tissue is sent to the lab to determine if there are abnormal cellular growths or another cause for the lesions.
Treatment and Care for Plantar Warts
In many cases, plantar warts go away on their own. These warts tend to be harmless and surgical removal can cause more complications than benefits.
When plantar warts cause discomfort, doctors often recommend conservative, at-home treatments, including:
- Wearing moleskin around the wart
- Soaking the foot in water and using a pumice stone
- Using an over-the-counter salicylic acid kit
- Placing duct tape over the wart for six out of seven days a week
In cases where these treatments are ineffective, the doctor may opt for a more aggressive approach. They may suggest:
- Acid treatment to burn the wart off
- Laser treatment to destroy the wart
- Cryotherapy to freeze the wart
- Curettage and desiccation to destroy the wart with an electrical charge