Plantar warts are hard, grainy growths that usually appear on the heels or balls of our feet, which are the core areas that feel the most pressure. They can also appear alone or occur in clusters. Plantar warts are also spongy warts that usually develop on the soles of the feet, known medically as the “plantar surface.” They tend to be flat and cause the build-up of the top layer of the skin which has to be peeled away before the plantar wart can be seen.
Plantar warts usually don’t stick up above the skin as much as warts on the hand, partly because of the pressure of walking and its flattening effects.
Plantar warts are of two types: (i) Solitary warts (ii) Mosaic warts
Symptoms of Plantar Warts
Plantar warts’ signs and symptoms include:
- Hard, thickened skin(callus): Often a plantar wart resembles a callus because of its sturdy, thick tissue
- Pain: A plantar wart usually hurts while walking and standing, and there is a pain when the sides of the warts are squeezed.
- Tiny black dots: These often appear on the surface of the wart. The dots are dried blood contained in the infected capillaries (small blood vessels).
Plantar warts grow deep into the skin. Usually, this growth occurs slowly: the wart starts off small and gets larger over time.
What Causes Plantar Warts?
Plantar Warts are benign epithelial tumors caused by an infection with human papilloma virus (HPV) types. The Human papilloma virus type 1 causes most plantar warts. The virus gains access to the skin through direct contact. It is presumed that inoculation of the skin occurs in places likely to be contaminated by others with plantar warts, like communal showers.
Once infected by HPV, the spontaneous resolution seems to depend on the development of immune lymphocytes that destroy the virus-infected cells. Vaccines are available to protect against certain types of genital viral infections, but there are no vaccines for the HPV types that causes plantar warts.
How can plantar warts be treated?
We have several approaches to managing this kind of wart. Treatment is done on an outpatient basis, meaning the patient goes home the day of the treatment.
Medical options for treatment include:
- Cryotherapy: This treatment destroys the wart by freezing it with liquid Cryotherapy causes a blister to form; when the blister peels off, all or part of the wart peels off. This treatment is usually not done in young children because it can be painful. It works better if it is followed with a salicylic acid treatment.
- Tropical treatment: Tropical medicines work by stripping away layers of the wart. However, when the doctor chooses a tropical treatment, he or she will prescribe a more potent concentration of medication, such as salicylic acid or a combination of medicine which can be applied at home.
- Other: Other options to treat plantar warts include laser therapy, surgery, and immunotherapy, an approach in which the doctor uses the patient’s immune system to destroy a plantar wart that is not responding to other treatments.
How does Plantar Wart spread?
Plantar warts will spread to other areas of the feet, but not to other regions of your body. However, if care is not taken, it can spread to the other parts of the body. This wart spreads when there is a direct skin to skin contact with someone that has it or inadvertently leaving the virus somewhere where others can pick it up. For example, the virus can spread when one person with plantar warts walks barefooted on the ground where others will thread.
The virus can also spread if a patient with plantar warts loans shoes or socks, which have not been washed, to a healthy person.
Warts can quickly be spread to areas around the body other than the feet, such as when the patient touches the plantar wart and then touches another area of his or her body, such as the hands, face, genitals, scalp, arms, legs, ears, etc. If the wart bleeds (such as when it is nicked or cut accidentally), this creates an ideal avenue for an infection of another part of the body or another person.
The best way to prevent a plantar wart is to keep your feet clean and to keep them away from surfaces on which the HPV might be lurking.