podiatrist examining foot under light for plantar wartsEven the healthiest of individuals are hard on their feet. From simple walking and shoe-wearing to active sports and a variety of environmental exposures, our feet endure a lot. With so much pressure placed on them, there are many ailments that can occur, both major and minor. Plantar warts are one of those risks.

What Are Plantar Warts and What Causes Them?

Plantar warts are small growths that appear on the heels and other areas of the feet that bear weight on a regular basis. They can grow both outward and inward, forming a callus. The formal name for plantar warts is "verruca plantaris," and they are a fairly common condition. You might notice a rough and grainy bump on your foot when you have a plantar wart. You might only one on your foot (known as a solitary wart) or a cluster of several tiny ones close together (known as a mosaic wart). If you notice small black markings in the center of the wart, this is no cause for concern—it's simply small, clotted blood vessels that have become visible due to the wart.

Plantar warts only have one cause—infection of the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 100 different varieties of HPV, which means many people have carried at least one strain at some point in their lives. Plantar warts, however, develop when HPV enters your body through a small cut or crack in the skin. Getting HPV doesn't guarantee you will develop warts, and the strains that cause them aren't particularly contagious. But nevertheless, plantar warts aren't rare. You have an increased risk of developing them if you often walk around barefoot in warm and wet areas, making this primarily a summer concern.

Symptoms and Copycat Conditions

If you suspect you have a plantar wart, check to see if your symptoms line up with the following:

  • Hard, callused skin in a single spot on the foot. This is an ingrown wart.
  • Black "pinpoint" markings, also known as "wart seeds"
  • A lesion that isn't in alignment with the normal lines in your skin
  • A painful or tender foot, especially when walking or standing

Plantar warts aren't rare. In fact, they are one of the most-diagnosed skin conditions of the feet. Sometimes individuals will self-identify a plantar wart when it is actuality a corn, callus, or even skin cancer. Remember, plantar warts are caused by a virus, while corns and calluses are a biomechanical issue. The best way to ensure you truly have plantar warts is to visit a podiatrist for a formal diagnosis. While corns and calluses carry little to no consequence, the small risk of potentially ignoring skin cancer by assuming it's just a wart can be very dangerous. This is why it's always important to be seen by a qualified medical professional if you have any skin abnormalities.

Treatments for Plantar Warts

It can take a year or two for plantar warts to go away on their own, so it's a good idea to see a podiatrist for treatment if you are experiencing discomfort. There are over-the-counter medications and home remedies that may help, but if you aren't absolutely certain you are dealing with plantar warts (as opposed to a callus or something more serious), you will just be wasting time and money.

Some treatments a podiatrist might provide include:

  • A peeling medication containing prescription-strength salicylic acid
  • Freezing medicine, also known as cryotherapy
  • Immune therapy to stimulate your immune system and fight off warts
  • Laser treatment
  • Surgery to cut away the wart or eliminate it using an electric needle
  • HPV vaccination can help prevent future warts

When to See a Podiatrist

If you believe you have a plantar wart, it's always a good idea to see a podiatrist who handles dermatological issues, but it's especially true if you are experiencing pain, discomfort, or feel self-conscious about the appearance of your feet. Some questions you might want to ask include:

  • If it is indeed a plantar wart, what home care can I do?
  • How long should it take to remove the plantar wart?
  • How can I prevent future reoccurrences?

You should bring a list of all of your current medications to the visit, as well as make sure your feet are clean and ready to be examined.

While a general practitioner can diagnose foot conditions, a podiatrist can provide a more accurate and expedited diagnosis and treatment. At InStride Carolina Podiatry Group, our doctors are ready and willing to help you find solutions for your plantar warts. Give us a call to set up an appointment today.