Plantar Wart Care and Prevention Tips
Plantar warts are small, rough patches that develop on the balls or heels of the feet. They are a symptom of an HPV infection in the outer layer of skin on the underside of the feet. Plantar warts are found most frequently on the feet of children under twelve, people with weakened immune systems, and those who walk barefoot around damp places such as pools or locker rooms. Anyone who has developed these warts before has a good chance of getting them again. Plantar warts are not dangerous, but they can often be irritating or sometimes painful. Since they develop on the areas of the feet that experience the most pressure, they can occasionally grow inward into the skin of the foot underneath a hardened callous. This may complicate treatment, but it can typically be resolved without major intervention.
Plantar warts are caused by HPV (Human Papillomavirus) entering the body through small cuts or breaks in the skin of the feet. This virus is very common, but only a few strains can cause warts to grow. And not everyone who comes in contact with HPV will develop warts. These strains are not highly contagious, so it's not very likely that you will contract the virus after having contact with someone infected. The virus thrives in warm and moist environments, which is why most people develop plantar warts after walking barefoot around public spaces like locker rooms and pools. Another way that the virus can spread is through direct contact with warts themselves.
How to Treat Plantar Warts at Home
These warts can often resolve on their own without any treatment, though that process can take anywhere from 2 months to 2 years for children, and up to several years for adults. If you want to speed up the healing process, you can use several over-the-counter and at-home remedies, along with a few treatments your doctor can perform. One of the most common at-home remedies for plantar warts is to apply a peeling solution like salicylic acid. To use this remedy, you will soak your feet in warm water and then gently remove the top layer of skin covering the wart with a pumice stone or emery board. Once the wart is exposed, you will apply the peeling solution in either liquid or patch form to the surface of the wart. This process typically takes a few weeks to fully resolve the infection.
The next treatment that you can perform at home is to apply a freezing medicine to the warts. You'll go through the same process as with the peeling solution by removing the top layer of skin after soaking your feet in warm water. Then apply the freezing medicine to the exposed wart and allow it to dry. The solution will destroy the cells inside the wart, effectively killing the infection. This is a much faster process than peeling, and the warts can often be resolved in a few days. The rule of thumb when dealing with warts is to always keep them covered and wash your hands whenever you have contact with them. If you're not careful, the virus can spread to other parts of your body and create new areas of infection.
How a Doctor treats Plantar Warts
If you have tried several home remedies to resolve your plantar warts without success, then you should consult with your doctor. They will likely begin with a more advanced method of freezing warts by using cryotherapy. Liquid nitrogen is dropped onto the exposed wart, which will immediately kill off any viral cells. This process can be somewhat painful, so an alternative is to have the doctor apply blistering medicine called cantharidin to the wart. This will create a blister underneath the wart, which will cut it off from its blood supply. An enzyme in cantharidin will also begin to break down the bonds that hold the wart's skin cells together. This causes the wart to die, and it can then be clipped or peeled off of the foot.
In more extreme cases of plantar warts, your doctor may have to employ immune therapy or minor surgery to resolve the issue. If the warts have spread to multiple areas of your body, your doctor will likely prescribe medications to support your immune system in fighting off the viral infection. This is often coupled with topical treatments to encourage the healing process. If you have a wart that has grown inward into the skin, as we mentioned above, then it will most likely need to be surgically removed. Your doctor will apply a local anesthetic to your foot, and cut away the affected area. Since surgery on the feet can lead to painful scarring, this method is only used as a last resort after alternative methods have failed.
How to Prevent Plantar Warts
Plantar warts can only develop after you have had direct contact with a wart or you have picked up HPV from a public place. So, be sure that you never touch warts directly. If you do, make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly immediately afterward. If you are in a public place like a locker room or a pool, never walk barefoot in communal spaces. Always wear shoes or sandals, even in the showers, and try your best to prevent your feet from coming into contact with the floor. Keeping your feet clean and dry on an everyday basis can also prevent plantar warts from developing.
If you have already developed warts on your feet, then it's important to prevent them from spreading to other areas of your body. Avoid touching your warts directly, and never scratch or pick at them. And if you are using at-home remedies that require removing the top layer of skin with a pumice stone or emery board, don't use those tools on any other part of your body, and discard them after your warts have been fully treated. At the end of the day, it's important to recognize that there is nothing shameful about developing plantar warts. They are very common, it's an issue that can happen to anyone, and it is easy to treat. Just be intentional about your care, and you'll be just fine!