Warts are a soft tissue condition that can affect the feet. They are caused by a virus and can also appear anywhere on the skin. When they develop on the sole of your foot, they are called plantar warts. In general, teenagers are more susceptible to warts than adults, but children can also develop them. Some people can even be immune to wart development.
What causes warts on feet?
The virus that causes warts typically invades your skin through small or invisible cuts/abrasions. Walking barefoot on a dirty surface or ground where the virus could be present is one of the most common causes of plantar warts. It thrives in a warm, moist environment, which means that the risk of developing a wart is often higher in communal bathing facilities.
If a wart is left untreated, they can grow to an inch or more. They can even replicate, developing into clusters of several warts, called “mosaic warts”.
Like any other infectious lesion, plantar warts are spread by touching, scratching, or even by contact with skin shed from another wart.
A wart can also bleed, causing another route for spreading. Warts may spontaneously disappear over time, and can just as frequently reappear in the same location.
What are the symptoms of a plantar wart?
Warts are often harmless, however they may become painful. They are often mistaken for corns or calluses – build up of dead skin to protect an irritated area.
- Hard, thickened skin: A wart is a viral infection, often tending to be hard and flat. They have rough surfaces and defined boundaries.
- Raised & fleshier skin: Warts that appear on the top of the foot or toes can appear raised and fleshier.
- Black pinpoints: Plantar warts vary in color, ranging from gray or brown, with a center that appears as small pinpoints of black.
Can you treat a wart at home?
The self-treatment of a wart is generally not advisable. Over the counter aids contain acids or chemicals that can destroy skin cells. It takes an expert to be able to destroy abnormal cells, while not destroying surrounding healthy tissue.
Self-treatment with these over the counter medications should be avoided by diabetic or those with cardiac or circulatory issues. We also highly recommend you never use these medications in the presence of an active infection.
When should you see a podiatrist?
You should consult with a podiatrist when any suspicious growth or eruption is found on the skin of your foot. There are numerous other lesions that can appear on the foot, including malignant lesions like carcinomas and melanomas. These are rare, but are often misidentified as a wart, so a correct diagnosis is important.
Typical ways of treating warts
Your podiatrist will prescribe and supervise the use of a wart-removal preparation. Likely, removal of warts can be done by a simple surgical procedure done under local anesthesia.
Lasers are also effective in treating warts: CO2 laser cautery can be performed under local anesthesia to eliminate a wart lesion, plus it reduces the risk of post-treatment scarring.
How can you prevent plantar warts?
- You should avoid walking barefoot, as this virus lives on surfaces and grounds.
- Changing your shoes and socks daily will ensure your feet stay clean and dry, as warts thrive in a moist, warm environment.
- Avoiding direct contact with warts from another person or from parts of your body is a great preventative measure.
- If you have children, you should check their feed periodically to ensure there are no new growths.
- You should visit your podiatrist as part of your annual checkup.