Plantar warts are noncancerous growths that develop on the soles of the feet. Caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), plantar warts are frequently found on the heels or balls of the feet, areas to which the most pressure is applied during standing or walking. While plantar warts are not a serious health threat, they may cause pain or tenderness and therefore need to be removed.
Transmission of Plantar Warts
Not everyone who comes into contact with the HPV virus develops warts. For unknown reasons, some individuals' immune systems make them more susceptible. Although the virus is not particularly contagious through direct personal contact, it does thrive in warm, moist areas, so plantar warts may be contracted in public pools, showers, and locker rooms. Also, since the virus requires a break in the skin to enter the body, skin softened and made more fragile by exposure to moisture is especially vulnerable.
Children, adolescents, and individuals with immune disorders are the population most frequently troubled by plantar warts.
Diagnosis of Plantar Warts
Plantar warts usually present as small lesions with well-defined borders on the sole of the foot. Sometimes, however, pressure may cause a wart to grow inward in which case it presents as a callus. Black dots, sometimes called "wart seeds", may be visible and are often used to help diagnose the condition. These pinpoints are actually small clotted blood vessels. At times, multiple plantar warts appear, either at separate sites on the foot or in clusters, where they may appear to be one large wart. Normally, plantar warts are easily diagnosable by simple observation, but, if the doctor has any question, a biopsy is taken to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of Plantar Warts
In some cases, plantar warts may be safely removed with home remedies, either tape occlusion or application of over-the-counter preparations designed for this purpose. When a doctor's assistance is required, there are several treatment options: freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy), application of medications, such as Cantharidin or Imiquimod, laser treatment, electrodesiccation, or surgical excision.
Several office visits are usually required to make sure the warts are thoroughly removed. Patients with diabetes, neuropathy, or weakened immune systems should always have plantar warts treated by a physician because of the possibility of complications.