Plantar Warts: causes & treatments

Plantar Wart, Univeristy Foot and Ankle Institute

Plantar warts are rough, hardened warts that grow in the outer layers of skin on the soles of the feet. They will usually appear on the areas where most of your weight is held, on the heels or balls of the feet. Due to the pressure of your weight, some of these warts will deepen underneath several layers of skin.


UFAI, the right choice for foot and ankle care


The nationally recognized physicians at University Foot and Ankle Institute pride themselves in offering the most advanced care in a compassionate, relaxed environment. We are one of the very few clinics to offer bleomycin injections for plantar wart treatment.  This procedure is done with an air gun that puts the medicine in the right layer skin, with less pain and less complications.

Causes of Plantar Warts

Plantar warts are actually caused by the same virus that causes normal warts: the human papillomavirus (HPV). A plantar wart may develop when the virus makes its way into the skin through small cuts or other weakened points on the soles of your feet.

Plantar warts aren’t necessarily a cause for concern, but they can be painful and many people don’t like the way they look on their feet. If a plantar wart is causing you pain, you may be changing your gait to avoid the discomfort. The repetitive strain can lead to further foot injuries or joint damage. You can sometimes treat plantar warts at home, or you can have them removed by your foot and ankle specialist.



Symptoms of Plantar Warts

Plantar warts only grow on the soles of your feet, and do not look like regular warts that appear on your fingers or elsewhere on your body. You may have a plantar wart if you have:

  • Small patches of rough, grainy flesh in either round or irregular shapes on the soles of your feet
  • Singular warts or clusters of growths
  • Growths that are white or yellowish, with or without black centers. The black spots in the center are often called the “seeds,” but they are actually coagulated blood vessels.
  • A patch of irregular skin that interrupts the pattern of grooves in your foot
  • Pain when bearing weight on the wart



Plantar Wart Home Treatment

Many plantar warts will heal without treatment, but it could take a couple years. Some plantar warts can be managed or treated at home. If the pain is not significantly impacting your life, you can try these techniques before seeing a doctor:


Wear well-fitting, cushioned shoes. Ample cushioning in the shoes can relieve some of the pressure off your wart, reducing pain and improving your gait.


Over-the-counter remedies. There are several varieties of medication to treat warts that you can buy at your local pharmacy. Some remedies are topical applications, while others may involve at-home freezing kits. Typically, plantar warts will take multiple repeated treatments to completely heal.



Medical Treatment for Plantar Warts

If you have already tried at-home remedies, or your wart is causing you pain and affecting the way you walk, you may wish to see a foot and ankle specialist. There are a few different techniques your doctor may try.


Peeling medication. Your doctor may prescribe you a stronger topical solution of salicylic acid, which kills the wart by destroying and peeling layers of affected skin over multiple treatments. Salicylic acid has also been shown to boost your body’s immune system, which may help fight the virus. Salicylic acid is also effective when used in combination with cryotherapy.


Cryotherapy. Cryotherapy involves freezing the wart with an application of liquid nitrogen. Your doctor will first numb the skin around the wart, and apply the treatment either with a directed spray or a cotton swab. Your skin will react to the rapid freezing by forming a blister around the wart. The blister dries up and flakes off after 4-10 days, taking the wart with it. Most plantar warts take 3-4 sessions of cryotherapy to completely heal.


Acid patches. Your doctor can lightly shave the topmost layer of the wart and apply a coat of strong acid. This usually takes a few applications before the wart resolves.


Anti-viral creams. An anti-viral cream stimulates your immune response around the wart, helping your body to fight the infection.


Bleomycin. This is a highly-effective treatment that UFAI has been using along with only a handful of other clinics in the country. Bleomycin is injected into the wart using a needle-less Dermo-Jet. The air gun uses air pressure to deliver the medication instead of a traditional hypodermic needle and allows us to put the medicine in the right layer of skin with less pain and problems.



Preventing Plantar Warts

The virus responsible for plantar warts, HPV, is easily transmissible in warm, wet environments. Although not everyone who comes in contact with the virus will develop warts, it’s best to take precautions when you can.

  • Avoid walking barefoot in public, especially in moist places. Wear sandals in the sauna, while taking a shower in a public locker room, or when walking around a swimming pool. Take extra care to protect your feet from infection if you have:
  • Cuts or scrapes on the bottom of your foot
  • Feet that have been softened by long exposure to water
  • Dry, cracked skin
  • Diabetes. People with diabetes generally experience diminished feeling in their feet, and may not be aware of wounds or weaknesses in the soles of their feet.
  • A weakened immune system. People who smoke or have an immune disorder may be more susceptible to a viral infection.
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