Having warts on the bottom of the feet that won’t go away is a frustrating, ongoing problem that can last months or even years. They can make walking unpleasant but also painful. While many people are told that they should just wait for the wart to go away on its own, or to use padding in the meantime that only ever provides a little temporary relief, the reality is that when left untreated, warts can stick around for a very long time.
What are plantar warts and how are they caused?
Plantar warts are small, rough, round growths that are medically known as verrucae and present on the bottom of the foot. They’re caused by a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in the outer skin layer and are often contracted in childhood. Once you’ve contracted the virus, you’ll always have it in your system, so plantar warts may pop up spontaneously throughout your lifetime.
Most warts are harmless and benign, even though painful. They are often mistaken for corns, which are layers of dead skin that build up to protect an area which is being continuously irritated. Although they are not overly common, it is also possible that a variety of other more serious lesions, including carcinomas and melanomas, can be mistakenly identified as warts. Because of those identification problems, it is wise to consult a podiatrist about any suspicious growth or eruption on your feet.
The HPV virus is spread through direct contact. If you have a break in the skin, like a small cut or graze, then you may contract the virus through sharing the same surface like a shower or a floor. Immune systems do respond differently and not everyone that comes in contact with the virus will develop plantar warts. Similarly, a weakened immune system may make you more susceptible. Because the virus thrives in warm, moist environments, it is often contracted in changing rooms, at public swimming pools and at gyms
Typically, the age of the patient and the severity of infection will determine the type of treatment we use on our patients.
When warts are very few, the area is numbed with local anesthetic and a procedure called a blunt dissection is used. There is very little pain after the treatment, and normal activities can usually begin within one day, though you will need to put your foot up that night! The advantage of this procedure is that it normally requires only one treatment.
For younger patients, those wary of injections or if there are multiple infections, we usually recommend a topical chemical treatment. Treatments like this may take multiple follow up treatments.