Plantar warts are non-cancerous skin growths that appear on the soles of the feet. The thick patch of skin, or callus, that results is often gray or brown and contains dark specks. A wart often causes pain when walking and might cause the sufferer to feel as if he has a rock in his shoe. Some develop in a cluster-like form; these are called mosaic warts.
Because they develop on the bottom of the feet, these warts protrude internally as they are walked and stood on. All warts, including plantar warts, are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is not harmful until it enters the skin through an opening or break. This virus is the most common type of skin infection, and once inside the skin, it can cause more serious problems. It thrives on warm, moist areas and is contagious. The virus causes the skin cells to grow quickly.
One risk factor for plantar warts is walking barefoot in public places such as locker rooms, pools, or shower areas. Tight, closely fitting shoes can also create a breeding ground for warts. If one causes a person difficulty walking, he should see a medical professional. It's necessary to clearly distinguish between corns, calluses, and warts, although this can often be done on sight. If necessary, a healthcare professional can scrape the skin and send the sample to a lab for inspection.
Plantar warts are one of six main categories of warts. There are many forms of treatment for warts in general, and some eventually disappear without any treatment. Over-the-counter treatments, which often contain salicylic acid, can be used at home, and many people use duct tape occlusion therapy, although there is some debate about the success rate of this method. A medical professional can also prescribe medications to help remove warts or treat them in the office.
A healthcare professional can use an electrical current or laser surgery to burn a wart. Cryotherapy involves using a freezing liquid to dissolve it. Surgery is normally not used for warts on the soles of the feet, however, because it may result in painful scarring.
To help prevent plantar warts, people can frequently change their socks and shoes to keep the feet clean and dry. Individuals should avoid contact with warts on other parts of the body or on other people. Anyone who notices any growths or unusual conditions on the skin should see a medical professional. Parents should also look for signs of warts on their children’s feet.