How to Treat Plantar Warts
What Is a Plantar Wart?
Plantar warts, also called verruca, are non-cancerous skin growths on the bottom, or plantar surface, of the feet. Plantar warts are flat-surfaced areas that can be tender and stubborn to treatment.
Like warts located elsewhere on the body, plantar warts are caused by the human papillomavirus, HPV. The virus enters your body through tiny cuts, cracks or breaks in the skin of the foot.
Often, plantar warts can be successfully treated at home, but if that treatment fails, medical attention should be sought. Additionally, individuals with diabetes, immune system deficiencies, or taking blood thinners should consult their primary health care provider before attempting to remove a plantar wart at home.
Deep, Painful Plantar Wart
Do I Have a Plantar Wart on My Foot?
Plantar Wart Symptoms
Here's some ways to tell if what's on the bottom of your foot is a plantar wart:
- Initially, the plantar wart may appear as a small, rounded spot somewhere on the bottom of the foot. The spot will not have the usual ridges and lines that the skin around it has. At this point, the verruca is usually painless and difficult to see, but this is the optimal time for treatment.
- As the virus grows inward, the skin over it will begin to toughen and a callous may form over the wart.
- Small fleshy, grainy-looking spots on the sole of the foot.
- A rounded area where small, pinpoint blackened areas can be seen. The blackened dots are commonly thought to be wart "seeds," but they are actually dead capillaries.
- Pain or tenderness when walking or standing
If you have any doubt about whether the spot(s) on the sole of your foot is a plantar wart, check with you health care provider before you begin home treatment.
Plantar Wart Resistant to Multiple Treatments
When to See a Doctor for Plantar Warts
Mayoclinic.com advises you consult with your health care provider if any of the following things are true about your plantar wart:
- The lesions are painful
- The lesions change in color or appearance
- The lesions interfere with your activities
- The warts persist, multiple, or come back despite treatment
- You have diabetes or nerve damage in your feet
- Your immune system is compromised because of taking immune-suppressing drugs, have HIV/AIDS or other immune disorders
- You have any doubt that the lesion is a wart
How to Treat Plantar Warts at Home: Salicylic Acid
Some over-the-counter wart removal products contain salicylic acid either as a liquid, gel, ointment or patch. Salicylic acid will slowly debride the plantar wart.
It's important to soak your foot for at least 20 minutes prior to application of the product, then use an emery board or pumice stone to loosen the dead skin over the plantar wart before applying the product.
This process is repeated as often as the product label recommends and may take several weeks to months before the plantar wart is eliminated.
How to Treat Plantar Warts at Home: Freezing Products
Other over-the-counter wart remover products freeze the tissue of the plantar wart, eradicating it by minute amounts with each application. While similar to the freezing of plantar warts in a doctor's office, these over-the-counter products do not freeze the tissue to the same degree as what a medical professional would use.
Be sure to follow label instructions closely and always start with clean skin to avoid any contamination.
3D Medical Animation of Skin Warts
How to Treat Plantar Warts at Home: Miscellaneous Home Remedies
The following home remedies have been suggested by various sources and numerous people throughout the Internet community. The safety and reliability of any of these methods is not assured, but there are some people who swear by each.
- Vitamin A: Apply the liquid from a vitamin A capsule daily to the plantar wart. This method can take 1 to 9 months to clear the wart. Be careful to apply the liquid only to the plantar wart and not the surrounding healthy tissue.
- Duct tape: Cover the plantar wart with a small piece of duct tape. Remove the tape after six days and use an emery board or pumice stone to peel away the dead tissue. Repeat until plantar wart is gone.
- Vinegar: Soak you affected foot in vinegar for 30 minutes a day. Peel away any dead tissue after soaking and repeat daily until plantar wart is gone.
Each time you use an emery board or pumice stone to help clear away loose tissue, be sure the implement is clean. Do not use the implement on any other skin as the virus that causes the plantar wart could contaminate healthy tissue.
Plantar Warts/Verruca: Causes and Treatments
How to Treat Plantar Warts: Visit a Health Professional
If at-home treatment of the plantar wart doesn't appeal to you, seems like it would take too long, you've tried it unsuccessfully, or you have a health condition which precludes you from doing home treatment, you should consult with a health care professional, most often a podiatrist -- a doctor who specializes in treatment of the feet.
Although sometimes plantar warts resolve themselves in a year or two, if the plantar wart is causing pain or discomfort or the warts are spreading, you should seek treatment to have it removed.
You and your doctor will likely discuss the various methods medically available for plantar wart removal to determine which method is best for your situation:
- Laser surgery: Pulse dye laser treatment works by cauterizing tiny blood vessels within the wart, cutting off its blood supply and causing the infected tissue to die. This method may cause pain and scarring.
- Minor surgery: Here an anesthetic is injected into the tissue surrounding the plantar wart, then the doctor either cuts away the wart or uses an electric needle to destroy the infected tissue and remove it. Scarring is possible.
- Cryotherapy: The doctor applies liquid nitrogen to the plantar wart, destroying the wart's tissue. The application can be painful and blisters or may result that resolve by themselves after the therapy. **Personal note: I had a plantar wart removed by this method years ago. The application wasn't as painful to me as was the surrounding skin "thawing" after the treatment. I took acetominophen, which took the edge off the post-treatment pain.**
- Cantharidin: This substance, an extract from the blister beetle, is often used along with salicylic acid that the doctor applies to the plantar wart. While the application itself is generally painless, the blister that forms afterward can be painful. This substance works fairly quickly to destroy the plantar wart and the doctor will remove the dead tissue on a second visit, usually within a week to ten days.
- Aldara: The doctor may prescribe this cream that is applied directly on the wart. It works by encouraging the body to release healing proteins to the area to fight the virus causing the plantar wart. A potential drawback to this method is that surrounding, healthy tissue may become severely inflamed and tissue damage is possible. If this happens, this treatment method is halted.
- Immunotherapy: This method is used for hard-to-treat plantar warts. The doctor may inject one of two substances into the plantar wart to harness your body's immune system to destroy the infection that is the wart. This method may cause pain.
Sometimes the soles of our feet get little attention. It's not until we have pain or discomfort in our feet that we get curious enough to look for the cause.
Plantar warts, verruca, are most easily treated when found early. It's prudent to examine the soles of the feet each time you bathe or shower to catch them early on. You should now have a good idea what a plantar wart looks like and have a variety of methods to treat if one develops.
This hub is informational in nature. It is not intended as a replacement or substitute for medical advice. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have.
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