A plantar wart is caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus Type 1. The medical term for a plantar wart is Verruca Plantaris. The virus spreads to your foot by coming in contact with the virus, such as stepping barefoot where someone with plantar warts has also been barefoot. The virus is able to enter the foot by small microscopic cuts that are usually painless and cannot be seen.
Plantar warts typically appear in areas where your foot has the most contact with the ground, such as the ball or the heel of the foot. Common places to get plantar warts are in communal locker room showers, any area where people may not be wearing socks and shoes, or public swimming pools. So it is important to wear socks and shoes in public areas to prevent plantar warts. However, if you are think your barefoot habits have never resulted in plantar warts, this may be due to your immune system killing the virus before the plantar wart could form.
The virus can cause plantar warts anywhere on the bottom of the foot, and it will impact the outermost layer of skin. The plantar wart may appear thickened similar to a callus. However, notice that on the bottom of your foot you will see skin lines and creases similar to those seen on the hands. If a plantar wart is present the skin lines and creases will not be present in the plantar wart skin. The plantar wart will also have numerous small black dots. These black dots are the blood vessels that are providing nutrients to keep the wart alive.
Seven to ten percent of the population in the United States struggles with plantar warts. Plantar warts can be found in 3 patterns; either single, in clusters that appear to look like one large wart, which is termed “mosaic wart”, or in between two toes which are called “kissing warts.” Even though the majority of the time these warts are small, usually less than 1 cm, they can be very painful since they have a tendency to grow into the bottom foot, which will feel as though you are walking on a stone.
A wart can be diagnosed by a podiatrist in two ways. The first is by pressing on the plantar wart and then squeezing the sides of the plantar wart; it is a plantar wart if there is pain from squeezing it, but if pain is caused by pressing on the wart, it is usually a callus. The second way to diagnose is by debridement, which is scraping of the plantar wart skin; if it is a plantar wart small pinpoints of blood will result due the wart having its own blood supply to stay alive.
Plantar warts have a variety of treatment options. Some of these include:
- Salicylic acid over-the-counter medications
- Prescription medications prescribed by the podiatrist
- Cryotherapy, which is freezing the wart
- Wart removal surgery by the podiatrist cutting the plantar wart out of the skin
Not all warts will respond to the over-the-counter medications, so seeking podiatric treatment is beneficial; however, plantar warts may be tricky to get rid of since there is not a clear-cut treatment that is 100% effective.