If you suspect you have a plantar wart, your doctor can help determine the best option for treatment.
Have you ever felt like you had a pebble digging into the bottom of your foot, but when you check, there is nothing there? You may think you have a callus, but it is more than likely a wart. A wart that grows on your foot is called a plantar wart.
Recognizing a Plantar Wart
Most people don’t regularly inspect their feet without reason. So most plantar warts are not found until they are causing a problem. Unlike warts that may grow on other parts of your body, plantar warts grow into your skin. This is what causes it to feel like a small pebble is jabbing into your foot. They may even be covered by a callous, making it harder to diagnose.
You may see black pinpoints in the center of the wart. Although these are commonly called wart seeds, they are not any type of seed. These are actually tiny clotted blood vessels. Plantar warts are most often found on the weight-bearing parts of your foot, so on the heel and the base of your toes. If you follow the lines on your foot and see an interruption in this pattern, it may be a plantar wart.
If you cannot determine what you are seeing, consult a doctor. Some plantar warts can be treated at home, but you want to be sure that it’s a plantar wart first.
Causes of Plantar Warts
Plantar warts are caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV. There are many strains of HPV, and the type that causes plantar warts is not the type that causes genital warts or other illnesses. HPV enters the body through a break in the skin. On your feet, this break could come from an injury, dry skin, or even clipping your toenails too short and cutting your skin a bit.
As with other viruses, the HPV strain that causes plantar warts is spread by contact. Since viruses can live on surfaces for days, they are easily spreadable. Children may pick them up on playgrounds, and older teens and adults can pick them up in locker rooms and other public areas.
The same virus that causes a plantar wart in one person may not cause a plantar wart in another person. For example, you and your sister may touch the same surface and you can contract the virus and she won’t. It is nearly impossible to predict whether or not you are susceptible to HPV unless you have already had a plantar wart.
Treating a Plantar Wart
Unless the wart is interfering with your daily life, you may opt not to treat it. Without any treatment at all, a wart will last about two years before falling off on its own. People who have warts that are highly visible often want to treat them. Plantar warts are not visible but may cause pain. If it is causing pain, there are a few different treatments you can try.
You may opt to treat the wart at home first. There are many over-the-counter wart removers that work for plantar warts. These usually contain some amount of salicylic acid. The treatment may take a couple weeks to work fully.
If you have attempted to treat your wart yourself and have not been successful, you may want to see a doctor for treatment. There are a number of treatments available, from cryotherapy to prescription strength acids to laser surgery. The size of the wart and where it’s located will help guide your doctor to the correct treatment.
Preventing Plantar Warts
Since plantar warts are spread by a virus, you can try to avoid contracting them in the same ways you would any virus. Washing your hands is always the best way to avoid any illness. For plantar warts, keep your feet clean and dry, and if you need to shower or get dressed in a shared area, consider covering your feet. Change your socks every day and use clean nail clippers when clipping your toenails.