Foot Health

Plantar warts

Warts are one of several soft tissue conditions of the foot that can be quite painful. They are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) which infects the skin through small cuts and abrasions. The most common types of HPV that causes plantar warts are 1, 4, 57, 60, 63, 65, and 66, according to research from 2020. HPV causes a buildup of the protein keratin on the skin, which can result in warts on the skin.

Plantar warts are warts on the bottom of the feet. They are often mistaken for corns or calluses – which are thick layers of dead skin that build up to protect an area which is being irritated by pressure when walking. Plantar warts tend to be hard and flat, with a rough surface and well-defined boundaries. Warts are generally raised and fleshier when they appear on the top of the foot or on the toes. Plantar warts are often gray or brown (but the color may vary). Black dots can sometimes be seen in a wart. These are actually blood vessels that have grown rapidly and irregularly into the wart and have clotted off.

Plantar warts are often contracted by walking barefoot on dirty surfaces or ground where the virus is lurking. The human papilloma virus lives in warm, moist environments, making infections common in public showers, and other wet surfaces such as around pools.

Plantar warts are spread by touching, scratching, or even by contact with skin shed from another wart. The wart may also bleed and spread that way. Left untreated, warts can grow to an inch or more in circumference and can spread into clusters of warts called mosaic warts. When plantar warts develop on the weight-bearing areas of the feet such as under the ball of the foot or the heel they can cause sharp, burning pain especially when walking or standing.

Contrary to popular belief, warts do not have “roots”. They only grow in the top layer of skin, the epidermis and do not grow into the dermis. The underside of a wart is actually smooth.

People of all ages can get warts, but they are most commonly seen in children, teens and young adults. They spread by direct contact. Your immune system determines your susceptibility to getting warts and the length of time it takes for them to go away.


Prevention tips

Occasionally, warts can spontaneously disappear and, just as frequently, they can recur in the same location. The key to prevention is to not get infected.

• Avoid walking bare foot on solid surfaces where the virus can live.

• Keep your feet clean and dry; change your shoes and socks daily.

• Check your children’s feet for signs of warts.

• Avoid direct contact with warts – from other persons or from other parts of your own body. They can spread.

• Do not ignore growths on, or changes in, your skin.

• Visit your podiatrist as part of your annual health checkup.


Treatment tips 

Self-treatment of warts is generally not advised. However, there are several over-the-counter preparations of acids or other chemicals that can be used to treat warts. Self-treatment with such medications should never be used by people with diabetes or circulation problems. Also, never use them if an infection is present. To relieve pressure and pain in the area you can use a pumice stone or foot file to file down the wart after the foot has been soaked in water for 20 minutes to soften the wart. After filing the wart, wash the file carefully since you can spread the virus to other parts of your body if you use this contaminated file. It is best to use the disposable ones. Remember, warts may spread and are catching – so after touching the wart remember to wash your hands carefully.

Diabetics and other patients with circulatory, immunological, or neurological problems should seek professional health care for treatment of warts rather than trying to treat them at home.

If the wart does not resolve spontaneously or with your home treatment, it’s time to see a podiatrist. Your podiatrist may choose from several different techniques for removing plantar warts.

• One of the most common methods to burn warts off is with prescription strength acid applied topically to the wart. Several applications may be required over the course of several weeks to achieve this.

• Lasers or other treatment methods have become a common and effective treatment to destroy the wart. The procedure is performed in the physician’s office and is safe.

• Cryotherapy or freezing warts is also used and frequently successful without scarring.

• Having surgery to remove the wart can also be done based on the location of the wart.

• Immunotherapy and other treatment options are also available if the wart proves to be resistant to these more common treatment methods.


• For more information, email us at
foothealth242@gmail.com or visit www.apma.org. To see a podiatrist, telephone 325-2996 for an appointment, visit Bahamas Foot Centre on Rosetta Street, or call 394-5824 for an appointment; or visit Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre on Hilltop Medical Centre off 4th Terrace Collins Avenue. In Grand Bahama, call Lucayan Medical Centre at 373-7400 for an appointment.

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