Plantar Warts

What is a wart?

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A wart is a raised, superficial bump on the skin. All warts are caused by human papillomavirus, also known as HPV. This virus enters the skin through cuts and abrasions. More than 100 types of HPV are known to cause warts, and most are relatively harmless. However, warts can be unsightly and uncomfortable, especially when found on the feet.

The most common type of wart on the foot is called a plantar wart. These bumps grow on the soles of the feet, which can make walking and standing uncomfortable. Unlike warts on other parts of the body, plantar warts grow into the skin, not out. They resemble small holes in the bottom of the foot. Harmless but uncomfortable, these warts may require medical treatment if they do not respond to at-home remedies. In some cases, recurring plantar warts could indicate a more serious condition, like a weakened immune system or HIV.

How to identify a wart on the foot?

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Plantar warts do not look like typical skin bumps. These blemishes grow into the foot, creating a shallow hole. These holes are often surrounded by hardened, yellowed skin. Plantar warts are very recognizable and can be identified without visiting a physician.

Plantar warts are caused by HPV, but there are other risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of getting a bump. If you have a history of plantar warts, a weakened immune system, or frequently walk barefoot in public spaces, you are more likely to develop these blemishes.

Patients should note that plantar warts can be very painful, especially when pressure is applied to the foot. If your wart symptoms include severe pain, schedule an appointment with your doctor. They may be able to recommend a stronger, more expedient treatment than typical home remedies.

Are there home treatments for foot warts?

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Most plantar warts will resolve on their own. There are many home remedies that can both expedite healing and reduce discomfort. Just remember that any wart treatment will likely take several weeks to work.

  • Salicylic Acid – This type of acid is more often used to treat acne, but it can be effective for wart removal. The acid removes dead skin cells and helps speed up cell turnover.
  • Over-the-Counter Freezing Sprays – Freezing sprays are designed to mimic the effects of cryotherapy, which is administered at a doctor’s office. These sprays create blister-like injuries over the wart. As the blister heals and falls off, so will the wart.
  • Duct Tape – While this home remedy may sound silly, it is designed to mimic the effects of salicylic acid. In applying a small piece of duct tape to the wart, and replacing it twice each day, a person both protects the blemish and slowly removes layers of dead skin. This can help speed recovery.

When to see a doctor for a wart on the foot?

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Patients should visit a doctor if their warts do not go away, or if they return frequently after at-home treatment. If you visit a doctor for plantar warts, they will likely treat the blemish with cryotherapy. This process involves freezing the wart and surrounding skin, killing the cells. In some cases, a doctor may recommend curettage, which involves cutting out the wart.

People whose warts are very painful should seek medical care for faster relief. Those with some pre-existing immune-weakening conditions, like diabetes, HIV, or AIDS should also visit a doctor after noticing a wart.