The skin of your foot may be tough, but contains many small cuts, cracks, or other vulnerabilities. Walking barefoot in public areas may leave your feet prey to a number of viruses found around communal pools, footpaths, or showers.
What are Plantar Warts?
The Human Papilloma Virus is fairly common and very contagious, lasting up to several months on its own. When walking over an infected area, the virus finds its way into the superficial outer layer of the skin. Over a period of a few weeks, one or several warts may begin to form over the soles or toes of the feet. The anatomic location (plantar, or bottom) on the foot is an indicator of a wart of this type. A plantar wart is a surface-only manifestation of contact with HPV. While not especially dangerous, they typically grow under pressure points of the foot, and can occasionally become sensitive or painful to the touch.
Do you ever share towels, socks, sandals, or other items that might come in contact with your feet? Do you use communal showers or often walk barefoot? Any object or surface containing HPV is one that could transfer the virus onto your skin. People with dry feet tend to experience more cracks, and therefore hold more opportunities for a virus to burrow. On the opposite end, people with sweaty feet harbor ideal conditions for a virus, as HPV tends to flourish in moist places. The virus is self-limiting, meaning it will typically only grow to a certain point before fading with time, but one should see a doctor to alleviate potential pain and limit the spread to others.
In most cases, they actually look like calluses, with a slight gray or brown tinge. Some plantar warts have a speckled look, where tiny drops of blood are visible. While they may appear like calluses, they differ in pain response. These warts may respond to pain when pressed from the sides, and calluses may hurt when pressed directly. If the wart has gone untreated for a while, it may hurt to walk. Groups of these warts may form, called mosaic warts, and while easier to notice, they can be harder to treat. A plantar wart can begin to form anywhere on the underside of your foot. If they develop in areas where pressure is applied, they’ll often grow up into the foot, rather than appearing as a large bump over the surface. As warts grow, the tissue surrounding them will harden, enhancing the feeling of a lump in the skin.
You will probably be asked questions about shoe-wearing habits, and if you tend to be barefoot in community areas. Also, try to remember when the wart or warts first began to appear. Luckily, trained Arvada podiatrists such as Dr. Scales can usually spot a plantar wart on looks alone. If unsure, a simple squeeze of the wart should do the trick; again, the reaction is most noticeable from the sides. Or your doctor may shave off a slight amount of the hardened tissue and examine it for indicators of any other condition.
One may first try simply soaking the foot in water and then gently rubbing away at the hardened skin with an exfoliator or pumice stone. Prescribed medications typically contain salicylic acid, and when applied to warts will remove them in stages from the surface down. Cryotherapy and acid treatments that are available over the counter often only kill off the surrounding tissue and can make the plantar wart much worse and larger in the long run.
Dr. Scales usually will treat plantar wart painlessly with by applying a formulated acid made at a pharmacy, that only physicians can apply. This is left on for 3-5 days and may take 2-5 treatments depending on the severity of the plantar wart. Dr. Scales can also surgically remove the plantar wart in the office if the patient desires this option. It is especially important to visit Dr. Scales as soon as you notice the plantar wart lesion before experiencing pain, for the sooner you do, the fewer treatments are needed.