November 17, 2018
Foot wart
Ask the Experts

What Are Plantar Warts?

by Berkeley Wellness  

Q: What are plantar warts?

A: These flat and light-colored warts, often with tiny black dots, are so-named because they grow on the plantar surface (sole) of the foot. Medically known as verruca plantaris, they, like other warts, are caused by the human papilloma virus (but a different strain than the ones that cause more risky genital and anal warts). The virus enters the skin through tiny breaks or nicks.

If the wart is small and painless, leave it alone. It may disappear on its own within a year or two. Over-the-counter wart removers usually contain salicylic acid, though a Cochrane Collaboration review published in 2012 found that this ingredient may not work as well on the feet as on hands—and, especially at higher concentrations, it can cause burns (so if you use such a product, follow directions carefully). The debate about whether duct tape helps treat warts continues. It’s okay to gently pare down a plantar wart with a small emery board, but don’t pick or pull at it or rub it with a pumice stone, since that could spread the wart or cause a secondary infection.

If a plantar wart makes walking uncomfortable or painful, see your regular doctor, a dermatologist, or a podiatrist, who can freeze it away (cryotherapy) or use lasers, various caustic topical chemicals, or other procedures to get rid of it. You may need repeated procedures. And the wart may recur.

To lessen the chance of picking up a plantar wart, don’t go barefoot on warm, moist communal surfaces like pool decks or in public locker rooms or showers. And don’t wear other people’s socks or shoes.

Also see Healing Cracked Heels.