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What are Plantar Warts?

By David Chandler

Plantar warts are a common skin infection on the bottom (plantar) side of your foot. About 10 percent of teenagers have plantar warts. Using a public shower or walking around the locker room in your bare feet after a workout increases your risk for developing plantar warts.

Cause and symptoms

Contrary to the old folk tale, you cannot get warts from touching a toad. A virus that enters the body through a break in the skin causes plantar warts. The virus develops in moist environments, warm, such as those created in your shoes when your feet perspire and the moisture is decoyed. Plantar warts often spread to other areas of the foot, increase in size, and have "babies," resulting in a cluster that resembles a mosaic.

Plantar warts can erupt anywhere on the sole of the foot. They may be difficult to differentiate from calluses. However, you may be able to see tiny blackish spots on the surface layer of a plantar wart. These are the ends of capillary blood vessels. Calluses have no blood vessels; they generally look like yellowish candle wax and are located only over weight bearing areas.

Plantar warts can be tender and very painful. Standing and walking push the warts flat. Plantar warts grow up into the skin, making it feel like there is a stone in your shoe.

Treatment

Although plantar warts may incidentally disappear by themselves, you should seek treatment if they are painful. Your doctor will cautiously trim the plantar warts and apply a chemically treated dressing. The physician will also give you instructions for self-care. Salicylic acid patches, applied on a daily basis, and good foot hygiene, including regular use of a pumice stone, are often all that is needed. However, it may take several weeks for the plantar wart to disappear completely.

If the plantar wart is resistant to treatment, your physician may recommend an office procedure to remove it. After a local anesthetic is applied, the physician may use liquid nitrogen to freeze the plantar wart and dissolve it. To avoid damaging or scarring other tissues, this technique removes only the top portion of the plantar wart. The treatment must be reiterated regularly until the entire plantar wart is cured. Alternatively, the physician can cut out (excise) the plantar warts.


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