Reference Library

Warts

Warts are one of several soft tissue conditions of the foot. They are caused by a virus and can appear anywhere on the skin. Those that appear on the sole of the foot are called plantar warts. Children, especially teenagers, tend to be more susceptible to warts than adults.

Causes

The virus that causes the wart typically invades the skin through small invisible cuts and abrasions. The plantar wart is often contracted by walking barefoot on dirty surfaces or littered ground where the virus is lurking. The virus thrives in warm moist environments making infection a common occurrence in communal bathing facilities and gyms.

If left untreated, warts can grow to an inch or more in circumference and can spread in clusters which then coalesce to form a mosaic wart. Like any other infectious lesion; touching, scratching or even contact with skin shed from one wart can cause another. The wart may also cause the skin to crack and bleed, creating another route for transmission. Occasionally warts can spontaneously disappear after a short time and just a frequently they can reoccur in the same location.

Symptoms/identification

Most warts are harmless although they may be painful. When a plantar wart develops on a weightbearing area of the sole of the foot, it is usually painful when weight is brought to bear directly on the wart.

Warts are often mistaken for corns and calluses, which are areas of thickened skin.

Plantar warts tend to be hard and flat with a rough surface and well-defined boundaries. The coloration of these lesions may vary, with a center that appears to have single or multiple small black spots or pinpoints.  

Warts are generally raised and fleshier when they occur on the top of the foot or on the toes.

It is important to note that warts can be very resistant to treatment and have a tendency to reoccur.

Home care

Self-treatment is generally not advisable. Over the counter preparations contain acid or chemicals that destroy skin cells. Self treatment should especially be avoided by people with diabetes and those with cardiovascular or circulatory disorders. Never use these medications in the presence of an active infection.

It is wise to consult a podiatric physician when any suspicious growth or eruption is detected on the skin of the foot in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis. A variety of more serious lesions may appear on the foot, including malignant lesions such as carcinomas and melanomas. Although rare, these conditions can be misidentified as a wart.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your podiatrist may prescribe and supervise your use of a wart removal preparation. Removal of warts by a simple surgical procedure may also be indicated. Lasers have become a common and effective treatment as well.

Prevention

  • Avoid walking barefoot.
  • Change socks daily.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Avoid direct contact with warts when they are identified.  
  • Do not ignore growths on the skin or changes in your skin.
  • Check your children’s feet periodically. 

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