Plantar warts, sometimes called verrucas, are a fleshy growth that develops on your feet, primarily on the soles and bottoms of the toes. Warts aren’t inherently dangerous, but they may cause discomfort when you put your weight on them.
At Cortez Foot & Ankle Specialists, with offices in Bradenton, Sarasota, University Park, and Ellenton, Florida, our team of expert foot and ankle specialists sees their fair share of plantar warts, and they offer a number of different treatment options if you’re bothered by them and want them removed. Many patients ask about the relationship between HPV and plantar warts. Here’s what the team has to say.
What causes warts? The HPV-wart connection
HPV stands for the human papillomavirus (HPV), of which there are more than 100 strains. While some strains are known for causing genital warts or even cancer, the strains that cause plantar warts aren’t among those. And while you may develop additional warts in locations different from the initial infection, these strains aren’t especially contagious. To spread from one person to another, they need the right environment.
You become infected when an HPV strain enters the body through small cuts in the soles of your feet. The weight of your body presses down on your soles, causing the entry area to thicken as the wart burrows into the skin. You may see a black dot in the center, which is coagulated blood. And while plantar warts aren’t a health threat, the calluses and warts can cause irritation, pain, and/or minor bleeding.
So, what puts you at risk? HPV loves to hang out in warm, moist environments, making places like locker rooms and swimming pools fertile breeding grounds. Most people have any number of small cuts on their soles, so if you walk barefoot in these areas, you give the virus access. Shoes of any kind are enough to prevent HPV from spreading.
Why should you remove warts?
If plantar warts aren’t particularly contagious or medically dangerous, why should you remove them? Because they have an effect on your podiatric health.
Developing warts means you have a virus in your system, and viruses, even strains that aren’t particularly contagious, are experts at replicating. You may start with a single uncomfortable wart, only to find a cluster popping up near it later on. And, once infected, you’re more likely to become reinfected.
In addition, developing clusters of warts may mean your immune system has become compromised and can’t battle the infection. You should see your primary care doctor to determine if an underlying medical condition is causing the problem so you can get treatment for it.
Warts that cause discomfort may have consequences beyond your immune system. It’s natural to want to stay off a sore spot, but changing how you walk alters your entire body’s mechanics; you can develop new pain in your feet, legs, and even your lower back. By removing the warts, you prevent these problems from developing.
Treating plantar warts
Most warts clear up by themselves. However, it may take a couple of years, and you probably don’t want to wait that long. Fortunately, Cortez Foot & Ankle Specialists offers several treatment options, always starting with the conservative ones.
One treatment the Cortez Foot & Ankle Specialists team uses is a wart removal liquid, which is brushed on the wart and then regularly reapplied. One substance used is salicylic acid, which dissolves the layers of the wart until it’s gone. It does take some time, though, for the wart to disappear. Another option is cryotherapy, which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the warts.
A third option is custom orthotics. You wear them inside your shoe, where they help cushion the weight-bearing areas of your foot so you don’t change how you walk.
Most warts clear up using one of these treatments. In the rare cases they don’t, you may need to have the warts surgically removed.
Do you have plantar warts that have become uncomfortable or annoying? Cortez Foot & Ankle Specialists can help. Call us at any of our locations to make an appointment, or book online with us today.