Similar to warts that appear elsewhere on your body, warts that grow on your feet are caused by the human papillomavirus virus (HPV), a highly contagious infection that spreads easily. While they tend to grow slowly, foot warts can become quite painful, particularly if the pressure of standing or walking causes them to sink inward.
Find out how you can get rid of painful foot warts — also known as plantar warts — and give yourself future protection from the virus that causes them.
Plantar wart basics
You may cringe at the thought of having a wart on your foot, but these small, benign growths aren’t as repulsive as they’re made out to be — they’re simply contagious and bothersome.
Although they can grow anywhere on your feet, plantar warts usually emerge along the base of your toes or on the weight-bearing ball or heel of your sole. Because they’re under constant pressure, foot warts tend to be much flatter than the common warts that appear on fingers and hands.
When a plantar wart grows inward or sinks deep into your skin, a thick, callused layer may form over it and hide the growth itself; instead of seeing an obvious wart, you may only see a callus over a well-defined spot that feels tender under your body weight.
Unobscured plantar warts look like hard, thick patches of skin with obvious dark specks. Known as “wart seeds,” these black pinpoints are actually the clotted ends of small capillaries, and they’re one of the distinguishing traits between warts and calluses, which don’t contain blood vessels.
Plantar wart removal
If your immune system is fairly adept at fighting off the strain of HPV that caused your plantar wart, it may simply disappear on its own over time. If you’re like most people, however, your foot wart will probably persist and continue to grow.
Left untreated, the average plantar wart tends to grow bigger, grow further inward, or give rise to a mosaic of warts across the surface of your foot. Plantar warts feel most tender or painful under pressure when they’re growing inward.
If your wart has been around for a while, causes pain or discomfort, or has increased in size or spread, we can help. Here at Jersey Foot & Ankle Institute, we offer a full scope of treatment solutions for stubborn or painful plantar warts, including:
Prescription-strength salicylic acid removes plantar warts over time, layer by layer. Before you apply salicylic acid to your wart, you must soak the area for 10-15 minutes and gently file away the dead, warty skin with a clean emery board (which you should discard after one use).
Although your treatment plan depends on the nature of your wart, most people apply salicylic acid once or twice a day for three months; continuing the treatment for a week after the wart disappears can help prevent recurrence.
This in-office wart removal treatment uses liquid nitrogen to effectively freeze the growth right off the surface of your skin. After numbing the area with a local anesthetic, Dr. Dharia paints or sprays your wart with the extremely cold chemical agent, causing the area to blister and peel.
When the dead tissue sloughs off about a week later, it takes the wart with it. Because plantar warts can be stubborn, however, you may need multiple cryotherapy treatments to make the wart disappear completely.
If your wart is especially deep, persistent, or painful, Dr. Dharia may use electrosurgery to destroy your wart with an electric needle, curettage to scrape it away, or a combination of both techniques. Surgical wart removal is a simple in-office procedure done with a local anesthetic.
Plantar wart prevention
The strain of HPV that causes plantar warts isn’t actually as contagious as the strains that cause common warts or genital warts, but it does tend to thrive in warm, moist environments.
To avoid contracting the virus that causes plantar warts when you’re at the pool, the gym, or any other place where you may take off your shoes, make sure you wear flip-flops or sandals around the pool deck or in the shower or locker room.
Besides avoiding direct contact with another person’s warts, you should also refrain from sharing nail clippers, pumice stones, and other personal hygiene items that you use on your feet. If you have a wart, you can prevent its spread by keeping it clean and covered. Don’t scratch or pick at it, and any time you do happen to touch it, wash your hands carefully.
If you’re ready to make your wart disappear, we can help. Call our Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, office today at 908-3224-0369, or request an appointment with Dr. Dharia using our online scheduling feature. You can also send Dr. Dharia and the team a message here on our website.