What Are Plantar Warts?

Warts are one of several skin conditions that can be very painful.  They are caused by a virus which can enter the skin through small or invisible cuts and abrasions on the foot.   They can appear anywhere but when found on the sole of the foot are called plantar warts.  Plantar means "bottom of the foot."  Often they are mistaken for corns or calluses.  Unlike a wart, a corn or callus is a build-up of dead skin caused by pressure or friction.  Plantar warts tend to be hard and flat, with a rough surface and easily defined edges.  They are often gray or brown, with a center that has one or more pinpoint black areas.  When found in other areas, warts are generally raised and fleshier. 

The virus that causes plantar warts is often picked up by walking barefoot on dirty surfaces or littered ground.  The virus grows best in a warm, moist environment.  This makes a community bathroom or locker room an easy place to become infected.   If left untreated, the warts can grow to an inch or more in circumference and can spread into clusters of several warts.  These clusters are called mosaic warts.  Like other infections, the virus can be spread by touching, scratching, or even by contact with dead skin from another wart. 

Self-treatment is generally not the best idea.  Over-the-counter treatments contain acids or chemicals that kill healthy skin cells and can cause serious damage if used incorrectly.  People with diabetes, cardiovascular, or circulatory disorders should especially avoid self-treatment with these medications.  Warts can often spontaneously disappear giving those doing self- treatment relief but will return in the same spot a few months later.  Visiting your podiatrist is a great idea.  They can prescribe and supervise the use of wart treatments which may include topical and/or oral medications.  When appropriate, your podiatrist can remove the wart by a simple surgical procedure or laser treatment.   

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