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What are Warts?

Also known as verruca plantaris, warts of the feet are caused by infection of the humanpapilloma virus (HPV). They can appear as small, hard growths on the soles or heel of your feet or grow inward under a callus.

For some patients, plantar warts do not affect movement and quality of gait. But others may experience pain or swelling when walking and standing. Some plantar warts may also increase in number on your feet. If this occurs, it's best to seek podiatric help to manage and treat your plantar warts.

What Are the Causes of Warts on the Feet?

The main cause of plantar warts is due to several types of HPV. Plantar warts can be easily spread, and most patients find plantar wart growths after coming into contact with the virus:

  • at the gym—walking barefoot in communal spaces that have moist environments, such as gym locker rooms, pools, or showers, can spread HPV strains that cause plantar warts
  • during sexual contact
  • from another part of your body

Children, adolescents, and adults most commonly experience plantar warts. As the strain of HPV that causes plantar warts is not highly contagious, direct contact from one person to the next isn't a likely cause of transmission. Transmission of plantar warts occurs more easily if your foot has:

  • cuts or open wounds
  • cracked or dry skin
  • wet skin, from being in the pool for a long time

What Are the Symptoms of Warts on the Feet?

Patients with plantar warts may experience the following symptoms:

  • warts on the soles of one or both of the feet that are flat in appearance
  • painful, especially if they are on the heel or ball of the feel
  • redness and swelling
  • thickened skin
  • can only be one plantar wart—this is known as a solitary wart
  • a cluster of warts known as mosaic warts
  • small black dots—blood vessels—present on the surface of the wart

What to Expect During Treatment for Warts of the Feet at the Podiatrist

Treatment of plantar warts is best left to your podiatrist. Over-the-counter treatments for plantar warts contain acids that may destroy other parts of your feet. They should never be used if you are a patient with diabetes or have poor blood circulation in your feet, as this can lead to infection.

Regular foot checkups are key to managing and preventing plantar warts from multiplying further. Your podiatrist will diagnose the severity of the plantar wart and prescribe a treatment plan based on your current medical history, as well as symptoms. Prevention of plantar warts begins with proper foot hygiene, as well as wearing footwear at the gym or pool to minimize the transmission of HPV. Also, washing your hands before touching your feet is ideal for preventing the transmission from one part of your body to the other.

Treatment for plantar warts may include:

  • cryotherapy
  • salicylic acid
  • duct tape
  • surgery
  • electrocautery

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