Plantar warts are warts that appear on the soles of the feet. No, those toads hopping into your backyard from the drainage canal do not cause warts; instead, the human papillomavirus is the culprit. Adolescents tend to be more likely to get them than children or adults, but they are not the only ones who get them.
Plantar warts are quite different from warts you might get on your hands or fingers. They are typically flat, and calluses often form over them. The heels and balls of your feet are the most common areas of your soles where these warts appear. Plantar warts can be very painful. Warts may be confused for calluses and corns; while they may appear similar, warts are distinct because of the viral cause.
Causes of Plantar Warts
- Human papillomavirus, which can enter the skin through the smallest of cuts or abrasions
- Touching, scratching, or coming into contact with a wart or skin that has fallen from a wart
Symptoms of Plantar Warts
- Hard, thickened skin growths
- Lesions that disrupt the lines and ridges on the skin of your feet
- Pain, especially on the balls or heels of your feet, when you put pressure on those points
- Small, flesh-colored growths on the soles of your feet and surrounding black pinpoints (indicative of clotted blood vessels)
Treatments for Plantar Warts
It is especially important for people experiencing pain and for people with diabetes, nerve damage in their feet, and weakened immune systems to seek professional medical treatment, as warts can linger for years.
- Cryotherapy, in which liquid nitrogen freezes and destroys the wart
- Hyfrecator (high-frequency eradicator), an electrosurgical device that destroys the warty tissue*
- Surgery, a minor procedure to cut off the wart; requires only a local anesthetic
For pediatric patients, before trying anything invasive but under your doctor's supervision, we recommend the duct tape method for wart removal. Duct tape should be placed on the wart for cycles of seven consecutive days with single days off after each seven-day period. This allows the wart to suffocate over time. Starting as early as the second week of treatment, the wart, along with the "seed" or "root" of it may start to pull away from the skin and remain attached to the adhesive part of the tape. Once one is destroyed (if multiple warts are in an area), the body begins to address the virus causing them and normally begins to reabsorb any remaining warts. A podiatrist should monitor the treatment and will be necessary in order to debride dead tissue.
*New Orleans Podiatry Associates can often remove a wart with our hyfrecator on the same day of your appointment. For children who need to have a wart removed, NOPA can offer a mild, anti-anxiety medication that the parent can administer 30 minutes before the procedure, which we could perform as soon as the next day after your original appointment. Alternately, the procedure can occur at an outpatient facility where a twilight anesthesia may be used.
Prevention of Plantar Warts
- Avoid direct contact with warts, including your own; avoid picking at the warts.
- Avoid walking barefoot, as open wounds are the main ways in which the virus enters your body. Never walk barefoot in damp, warm public places like showers or saunas.
- Change your socks and shoes daily.
- Check children's and teenagers' feet periodically, and seek treatment as soon as you notice one of the symptoms listed above.
- If you use the duct tape method, use emery boards and pumice stones different from the ones you normally use.
- Keep your feet clean and dry.
- Wash your hands after touching warts as the virus may spread through direct contact