Warts are small, rough, thick and often painful lumps on the skin that are caused by a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). When a wart is present on the bottom of your foot, it’s called a plantar wart.
Plantar warts are spread through direct contact – either with someone that has the virus, or from sharing floors, shoes and socks with someone who has the virus. This means warts can quickly spread through families if care is not taken. Once you have the virus, it will be in your system for life, even if you don’t have any warts currently showing.
While plantar warts can affect anyone of any age, they tend to be more common in children. This is thought to be because their immune system hasn’t reached full maturity.
Plantar warts are not usually a serious health concern. They can, however, cause extreme pain and discomfort if they arise in high weight-bearing areas, like beneath your heel, the ball of your foot or your toes. This can make running, jumping and even walking uncomfortable, as the thick wart presses inwards on the sensitive nerves of the skin. The tenderness can make us change the way we walk to avoid the pain, and cause strain elsewhere in the body. A little wart can be a big problem.
Is it a wart or a corn?
Warts and corns can look very similar on first glance, leading many health professionals and those trying to treat the problem at home to make the wrong diagnosis. As warts and corns have completely different treatment requirements, we highly recommend saving yourself time and money treating the wrong problem, and having a Podiatrist diagnose the cause of your pain.
If you have a wart, the top layer of callus that often overlies the wart must be removed. Before this happens, you cannot confidently differentiate the two – this is where we see many people go wrong. If the mass beneath is a wart, you will notice:
- A rougher, granular appearance in the wart tissue
- Pain when pinching the wart
- Little black dots (dried blood) in the wart tissue
- Bleeding when the top of the wart or overlying callus is removed
- The natural lines in your skin move around the wart, and not through it
Treating plantar warts
Warning: We strongly advise against using home-care wart pads or creams from the chemist. These solutions almost always contain acid or other keratolytic ingredients to ‘eat away’ and dissolve the wart tissue. We often see patients who have used this unsuccessfully and have had the acid affect the healthy, thin surrounding skin. This causes an extremely painful injury, often producing much more pain than the wart itself, and leaves your fragile skin vulnerable to infection while it repairs.
At My FootDr, we offer treatments to suit all ages and pain tolerance levels. This includes:
- Using a mild acid in a safe and controlled environment, applied by an experienced Podiatrist. This usually requires multiple applications over several weeks and removes the viral cells slowly, allowing healthy skin cells to replace them.
- Cryotherapy to freeze warts using liquid nitrogen. We often use this treatment together with other treatments to maximise the effects.
Surgical removal is usually not recommended to treat plantar warts because it can cause painful scarring.
Warts can resolve on their own, though the timing is highly unpredictable with some warts taking weeks and other being present for years. If your wart is causing you pain, discomfort, or is affecting the way you walk, we highly recommend having it treated.
Preventing plantar warts
The following tips may help to prevent plantar warts:
- Avoid walking barefoot in public changing rooms and showers
- Change your shoes and socks daily
- Keep your feet clean and dry
- Check your children’s feet periodically, and treat any warts before they spread to other members of the family
- Avoid direct contact with warts on other persons or on other parts of the body
- Do not ignore growths on, or changes in, your skin
- Visit a podiatrist immediately if you notice any lumps or sores on the foot