I. Definition: Plantar warts are warts that occur on the sole of the foot and look like calluses. They tend to be hard, flat, have a rough surface, and may form in clusters. They may have a center that is speckled with pinpoints of black. (These are capillary blood vessel endings.) Plantar warts grow inward into the tissue due to the pressure placed on the wart when standing. While most warts are benign, plantar warts may cause pain when walking. Plantar warts are uncommon in people age 40 and over.
II. Cause: Like all warts, plantar warts are caused by a virus that enters and infects the body through breaks in the skin. The virus thrives in warm, moist environments, such as locker rooms, communal bathing facilities, or in your shoes when your feet perspire. Plantar warts can be spread by touching, scratching, or contact with skin shed from another wart.
III. Treatment and Prevention: Wart viruses are everywhere, however precautions can be taken to lower the risk of developing plantar warts and reduce the spread of the virus to other people and other parts of your own body.
• Always wear footwear in locker rooms, gyms, public showers, and around public swimming pools.
• Treat existing warts quickly and thoroughly.
• A number of techniques have proven successful in treating plantar warts.
• Keep foot clean and use a pumice stone to soften the affected area.
• Salicylic acid (available over the counter) applied repeatedly can soften the wart and expose the virus. It is believed that methods using topical irritants may work by injuring the wart, thereby allowing the body to recognize the virus and produce an antibody to fight the virus.
• Plantar warts can be removed with liquid nitrogen, injections of xylocaine with epinephrine, or minor surgery. These techniques should only be performed by a trained professional.
• While most plantar warts can be treated by home techniques, you should seek advice from an orthopaedic specialist or dermatologist if the wart changes color or gradually grows larger over 6 months.