What is a plantar wart? A plantar wart is a thick, rough skin growth on the bottom of your foot. Plantar warts are benign (not cancer).
What causes a plantar wart? A plantar wart is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a germ that spreads through direct contact. It usually enters the skin through cuts or scratches on the bottom of your feet. You may get a plantar wart if you touch someone else's wart.
What increases my risk for a plantar wart? Plantar warts occur more often in children and young adults. People with a weakened immune system are also at higher risk. If you have had a plantar wart before, you are more likely to get one again. Your risk is increased if you walk barefoot. It is also increased if your feet touch warm, moist areas, such as a shower stall or locker room.
What are the signs and symptoms of a plantar wart? Plantar warts most commonly form on pressure points, such as the heel or ball of your foot. You may have any of the following:
- A flat, gray, brown, or flesh-colored growth
- Black dots in the center of your wart
- One wart or a cluster of them
- Small wart that grows in size
- Pain or tenderness when you walk or stand
How is a plantar wart diagnosed? Your caregiver can usually tell that you have a plantar wart when he examines your foot.
How is a plantar wart treated? Your wart may go away on its own. You may need several treatments over weeks to months before your wart disappears.
Salicylic acid: This is an over-the-counter peeling agent that comes as a liquid. Soak your foot in warm water for up to 20 minutes. Apply a small amount of salicylic acid directly to your wart. Avoid getting it on other skin areas, because it may irritate healthy skin. Let it dry, and cover the wart as directed. After several hours, use a pumice stone or nail file to gently remove dead skin. Use 2 times each day for as long as directed.
Plaster patch: This is also available over-the-counter. Cut the patch to the size of your wart. Apply the sticky side to the wart. After 1 to 2 days, peel the patch off and apply a fresh patch.
Liquid nitrogen: This is used to freeze your wart. Liquid nitrogen is available over-the-counter but may also be applied at your caregiver's office. Liquid nitrogen may cause mild pain for a short time. Use only as directed.
Duct tape: This can help dry and remove the wart. You may be directed to leave the duct tape on for 6 days. On day 7, take the tape off and soak the wart in warm water for 5 minutes. Gently scrape the wart with a pumice stone or nail file. Then apply a new piece of duct tape and follow the same steps until the wart is gone.
Keratolytic therapy: This is when acid medicine is used to thin the wart. The medicine causes the outer layer of the skin to loosen and shed. Your caregiver may start this therapy in his office and tell you to continue using the medicine at home.
Cryotherapy: This is when your caregiver freezes the wart with a strong liquid nitrogen in his office. The skin on and around your wart may form a red blister. The dead wart tissue then dries up and falls off in a few weeks.
Immunotherapy: This uses medicine to help your immune system kill the HPV. This may make your wart go away. The medicine may be cream or a shot.
Laser therapy: This treatment uses a narrow beam of light to cut away the wart.
Electrodesiccation and curettage: This is surgery to remove the wart. Your caregiver numbs your skin, removes the wart, and uses electricity to burn the area to help prevent it from returning.
What are the risks of a plantar wart? You may get a plantar wart again. Treatment may cause a scar to form on the skin. The virus can spread to other parts of your body if you pick or scratch at the wart. Without treatment, a plantar wart can grow deep into the skin and may cause pain when you walk or stand.
How can I prevent another plantar wart?
Wash your hands: Wash your hands before and after you touch your wart.
Avoid direct contact with warts: Do not scratch or pick at your wart. Do not touch someone else's wart.
Do not walk barefoot in public places: Wear shower shoes or sandals in warm, damp areas. This includes shower stalls, swimming pool areas, and locker rooms.
Keep your feet clean and dry: Use foot powder between your toes and on your feet after you wash and dry them. Change socks often to avoid damp feet. If your shoes are damp from sweat, set them in a place where they can dry out before you wear them again.
Do not share or reuse items: Examples include nail files, pumice stones, socks, or towels. Clean these items with hot soapy water before you use them again.
When should I contact my caregiver? Contact your caregiver if:
- Your wart returns or does not go away after treatment.
- Your wart grows larger or begins to spread or cluster.
- You have bleeding or increased pain after treatment.
- Your treated area is red, swollen, or draining pus.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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