At some point in your lifetime, you may experience a common ailment known as warts. These are growths on your body that come from a variety of places. Most commonly, warts are caused by small infections in the top layer of skin. While they can be transferred from person to person, it is rare that human contact will make you develop warts.
What Are Plantar Warts?
Plantar warts are growths that develop on the bottoms of your feet, and they are caused by an infection on the superficial layer of skin on your feet. Plantar warts are caused by a strain of bacteria from a fairly well-known virus, HPV, or the human papillomavirus virus. This is a virus most commonly found in boys and girls during their teenage years and there are shots available to help prevent this disease from developing. However, there are some strains of this virus that can live whether you have the shots or not, and it is this strain that causes the Plantar warts.
While most people believe that warts are cancerous, they are simply growths on your body, and most will go away on their own without treatment in a few years. In fact, most people do not know that they have a plantar wart as they can sometimes look like calluses, which are hard and bumpy patches of skin. While calluses are most commonly found on hands, they can also be seen on feet, especially if you go without shoes for long periods of time.
How can you tell the difference between a callus on your feet and plantar warts?
While they do appear somewhat similar, there are distinct differences in the two. Calluses are raised well above the skin. They are also smooth on the top and look almost dome shaped. Plantar warts are considerably smaller, about the size of your pinky nail, and usually appear more flattened due to walking on your feet and wearing shoes. Plantar warts can also have black dots in them, which are actually blood vessels that have risen to the surface and are not harmful. Calluses are usually spaced out depending on where you place your weight when you are walking. While plantar warts are usually spaced out as well, you can also have what is called mosaic warts, which are plantar warts growing in a cluster.
If you notice a growth on your foot, there are some ways to tell if it is a Plantar wart or if it is simply a callus. Plantar warts are usually flat and gray colored. Most will have black dots in the center of them. You may also have a cluster of warts that are together instead of one wart off by itself. You may also experience pain or tenderness at or around the wart. This is from constant standing or walking on your feet. That is also a good indication that you are looking at a wart and not a callus, as the majority of the time calluses do not give you pain or tenderness because they are not caused by an infection.
Who Is At Risk?
Anyone who has dealt with warts can tell you that the most common way to develop a wart is through human contact, particularly indirect contact. For example, if you use a shower at the gym or even a hotel, you may be at risk. If the shower is not cleaned properly and the person who used it before you had a wart, you could also develop warts. Warts in children are more common due to the fact that they are constantly touching surfaces that others have touched as well. You are at an increased risk of getting plantar warts if your immune system is weakened. This can be from an illness or taking medication that breaks down your immune system.
Children and young adults are more likely to develop plantar warts than older adults due to their immune systems being slightly weaker. If you have had warts of any kind before, you are also at a greater risk of getting plantar warts. The HPV virus can get into your skin through cuts or scrapes on your feet, especially if you walk outside with no shoes on. These cuts and scrapes allow the virus to penetrate your skin and burrow down deep enough to create warts.
This is why it is important that you wear shoes outside to prevent yourself from stepping on something sharp and cutting your foot. It is also important that you take precautions and wear shower shoes or flip flops when you are bathing in a shower that is not your own. If someone who had a plantar wart was to use a public shower before you and not wear proper shoes, then they can indirectly spread the wart to you.
You should always consult your regular medical professional if you suspect that you have a plantar wart. While they are harmless and do not contain cancerous cells, if you have a large cluster of them, you may require a small surgery to remove them. Surgery is only recommended for extreme cases of plantar warts, though. Most warts will go away on their own in a few months to a year. There is no sure-fire quick method to getting rid of warts, and even once you are rid of warts they can regrow in time.
There are a few things that your doctor can do to help remove the wart, though it will not make the wart go away immediately and may take several months of treatment before you are completely rid of the wart. Even then, there is a chance that it will come back over time. Once you have talked to your doctor, you can decide on a treatment plan that works best for you, and with all of the treatments out there you have plenty of options.
Some of the treatments available include cryotherapy, keratolytic therapy, laser therapy, immunotherapy, and electrodesiccation and curettage.
Cryotherapy is the most commonly used treatment for warts of any kind. A smaller version of this treatment is also available in over the counter medication. This is the freezing of the wart with liquid nitrogen. While the wart will freeze solid and usually falls off in a few weeks to a month, this treatment can cause your skin around the wart to blister and turn red. You should always discuss the side effects with your doctor before beginning treatment.
Keratolytic therapy is a process in which you use an acid based medication to shed layers off of the wart. This makes the skin of the wart peel off and helps you to get rid of the wart. This is a long process and while your doctor will probably want to begin the treatment and possibly oversee the treatment for a few weeks, ultimately you will continue this treatment at home. This will allow you to tag team the wart and help to get rid of it faster. But this method is definitely time-consuming, so you must stick with it in order to see the results that you want to see.
Immunotherapy is a treatment that attacks the wart at its source, the HPV virus. This is done using medication, most commonly a cream or a shot. This is also another long process, most notably because there is no guarantee with this treatment that you will be rid of your wart. Attempting to remove the HPV virus from your body can also remove the wart naturally, however, it may take weeks or months. And you may still end up having to receive a treatment of something else to help completely get rid of the wart.
Laser therapy is fairly self-explanatory: a laser is used to cut off the wart at its source. Using a tiny beam, your doctor, or the doctor you may have been referred to, will essentially cut away the wart from where it resides on your foot.
Electrodesiccation and Curettage
Electrodesiccation and curettage is a surgery that may be used to remove your wart. This is for extreme cases where a medical professional may see more than one cluster of warts or an extremely large cluster. Using a numbing medication, your doctor will numb the area around the wart.
Once the area has become numb and you are unable to feel more than slight pressure, your doctor will remove the wart. After the wart has been removed, your doctor will then use an electric tool to burn the area where the wart had formed. This is done to try and make sure that the wart cannot grow in that area again. And while you may experience warts in other areas of your feet, you should not have a regrowth at the surgery site.
Being treated by your medical doctor for your plantar wart is something that you both should discuss together. Finding a plan of action that works best for you is the ultimate goal. If you do not have a regular medical doctor or you are unable to be seen by them, there are home treatments that can help give you relief from your Plantar wart. Though they are similar to treatments done in the doctor’s office, these are not immediate cures and will usually still take a few weeks, months, or more to completely get rid of the wart.
Duct Tape Treatment
This home treatment sounds a little crazy and may be something that someone’s grandma discovered. Using regular store bought duct tape, tear off a piece that is slightly larger than the wart, taking into account that because you are walking on your feet, the wart may be slightly flattened from the pressure. Place the piece of duct tape over the wart and keep the tape on your foot for six days. You may need to place a sock over your foot to sleep, to make sure that you do not accidentally remove the wart.
After you have worn the sock for six days, on the seventh day remove the duct tape and soak your foot in warm to hot water for at least five minutes. Using a nail file, or a foot stone, gently scrape the wart, being careful not to touch the wart with your bare hands. You will want to repeat these steps every day until the wart is gone. This is a very long process as you do not know exactly how long it will take to remove the wart with this method. But again, it is very important to stick with the treatment you choose to make sure that you are getting the most benefit out of the treatment.
Liquid Nitrogen Therapy
A smaller version of the cryotherapy that doctor’s use known as liquid nitrogen therapy can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy or supermarket. This is one of the most commonly used home wart treatments in use and there are people who swear by this method, so it is definitely worth a shot to try it.
Make sure to follow all of the directions exactly to maximize your chances of getting rid of your wart. Like with the treatment at the doctor’s office, you may experience slight redness, pain, or blistering around the treatment area. Make sure you keep an eye on the area and alert your doctor if you notice something that is out of the ordinary.
Another well-known over-the-counter treatment is the plaster patch. You can purchase this from your pharmacy or supermarket. You will want to trim the patch to fit over the wart, leaving a small area around the wart to make sure that the patch is securely in place. You want to remove the patch and replace it with a new one at least three times a week to help prevent sweat and water from gathering more bacteria around the wart.
The salicylic acid treatment for warts is lengthy in directions and takes a good bit of time to devote to maintaining this treatment. You can purchase this item from your pharmacy or supermarket and you will most likely find it near the liquid nitrogen therapy. Making sure to follow the directions exactly, place your foot in warm to hot water for 20-30 minutes. Once you have completed this, you will then apply a small amount of the acid to your wart.
Make sure to cover your wart with a Band-Aid or a similar covering to prevent dirt from getting in and to keep the acid from getting onto other parts of your body. You may notice a stinging sensation or slight pain at the site of the wart.
This is normal, but make sure to keep it off of healthy skin as it can cause damage. Using a nail file or foot stone, remove the bandage after a few hours and gently scrub the wart. You will want to repeat these steps twice a day until the wart is completely gone.
While the treatments for plantar warts can seem daunting and overwhelming, there are other things you can do to help prevent them from forming again. While these are merely suggestions, they are good to remember and to keep in practice for your everyday life. This is especially important if you are at a high risk of getting plantar warts to begin with.
If you happen to touch your wart, especially if you are putting on socks or you are using another treatment, make sure to wash your hands immediately. It is best if you do not touch any other surface with the hand that touched your wart to make sure that you do not spread it to someone else through indirect contact.
Make sure that you do not touch someone else’s wart. If you touch one on accident, wash your hands immediately to try to prevent it from spreading to you or other people. If you are the one with the wart, try not to pick at it or scratch it. By doing this you can spread the skin cells around in the air and cause them to land on other surfaces that people may touch. Remember this especially if you are in public and do not have on closed toed shoes.
Take Care of Your Shoes
Always make sure to wear your shoes when you go out in public. While most stores require you to be wearing shoes to be served, this is not always the case, especially while at locations like the gym or the swimming pool. While it is tempting to remove your shoes and leave them in a locker when you are going for a dip, take your shoes with you and wear them until you have entered the pool. Most places do not have a problem with your leaving your sandals next to the pool, and it will make it easier for you to put them back on once you are out of the pool.
Try to keep your feet as clean and dry as you can at all time. There are many different foot powders on the market today that will help you keep your feet dry of sweat while wearing socks and closed toed shoes. You want to make sure that you apply the powder to clean and dry feet, preferably after showering. Make sure to rub the powder into the spaces between your toes as Plantar warts can grow there as well. Remember to change your socks if they get wet, or if you tend to sweat a lot through your feet. This will help to prevent any extra bacteria from growing into the wart, and it will help to keep new warts from forming.
Try using a shoe spray to keep the inside of your shoes from collecting bacteria. If your shoes become wet, remove them as quickly as you can and set them out to dry in a hot, but not humid area. Humid, wet air can cause bacteria to grow and thrive, and then you are faced with the problem of having to purchase new shoes. There are multiple shoe sprays that will help you to keep your shoes dry on the inside. Letting your shoes tumble in the dryer by themselves can also help to keep them dry between uses or after you have worn them for a while.
Another way to help prevent future plantar warts is to make sure that you do not reuse items or share them with someone else. Once you are done with your showers, throw your towel in the dirty clothes pile and grab a clean one if you need it. Never reuse dirty socks, even if you only need them for a quick errand. Accept the extra laundry and grab a new, clean pair.
If you do your toe nails at home, make sure you have your own set of nail care items that only you use. This is very important if you use foot stones or foot scrubbers on the bottoms of your feet. Don’t leave them out where someone else in your household can use them, as this is an indirect way of spreading your wart to another person.
If you get your nails done at a salon, make sure you use a salon that cleans and sanitizes all of their foot equipment. Nail salons are another public place where, even though you may be getting a pedicure done, you need to keep shoes on at much as possible. This will not only help you prevent getting another wart, but it can also keep you from spreading the wart to someone else.
While a plantar wart is harmless and is generally just an inconvenience, it is very important that you take the necessary steps to keep yourself from spreading the wart and help yourself to be wart free for as long as possible. Keeping up with treatments and general good hygiene when it comes to your feet can help you to protect yourself and others.