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Plantar warts refer to a skin condition that result in growths on the soles of the feet. Such growths are noncancerous and are caused due to infection by the human papillomavirus or the HPV. The virus may enter the body via small breaks, cuts or other susceptible regions of the skin on the feet.

Plantar warts generally tend to form under the pressure points in the feet such as the balls or the heels of the feet. Such pressure may also result in the inward growth of the plantar wart, beneath a thick, solid layer of skin called callus

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Most cases of plantar warts do not result in any serious health complications and rarely require any treatment. In certain cases, plantar water may be distressing and result in pain. In case, self-care treatment methods fail to alleviate the condition, then affected individuals may need to contact a health care provider for removal of the plantar warts.

Symptoms of plantar warts

Some of the signs and symptoms of plantar warts are as follows:

  • Activities such as walking or standing may cause mild or severe pain or tenderness
  • The soles of the feet may form tiny, grainy, fleshy lesions or growths
  • Presence of black pinpoints, often referred to as ‘warts seeds’. In reality they are tiny blood vessels that have clotted.
  • Presence of solid and thickened skin over a distinct ‘spot’ on the skin, wherein a plantar wart has developed inwards
  • The regular ridges and lines of the skin on the soles of the feet are interrupted by the presence of lesions.
  • The presence of pain and discomfort may change the normal gait or posture of an affected individual, and he/she may not even realize this change. Such differences in the way one runs, walks or stands can eventually result in joint or muscle ache or discomfort

Causes of plantar warts

  • When the outer layer of the skin present on the soles of the feet is infected by the human papillomavirus, it results in the formation of plantar warts.
  • Even though there are more than 100 varieties of HPV, not many are suspected to be the cause of warts on the feet. Most of HPV varieties are known to cause warts on the mucous membranes and other regions of the skin.
  • The immune system of each individual reacts in a unique way to infection by the HPV. Hence, not all individuals who are exposed to the virus develop plantar warts. Even individuals belonging to the same family respond differently to HPV infection.
  • The types of HPV that cause plantar warts are not that contagious. Hence the virus cannot be easily transmitted from one person to another through direct contact. However, such HPV strains flourish in moist and warm environments such as public swimming areas, shower floors and gymnasiums. Thus one may contact the virus by walking barefoot in locker rooms or around pools.
  • Also, HPV requires an opening in the skin that will allow it to enter the body. Scrapes or cuts, cracks in dry skin and softened, wet and fragile skin that results from exposure to water for prolonged durations, act as entry points for the virus.

The spread of HPV from the initial site of infection can lead to the development of multiple warts. For example:

  • Presence of ‘kissing warts’ wherein a pair of plantar warts occur in the areas where two parts of the foot meet, such as area of contact between the ball of the foot and the toe, or between two toes.
  • Presence of single plantar warts at different areas on the sole of the feet
  • A bunch or labyrinth or warts that combine together to form a single, large lesion.

Even though all individuals are equally vulnerable to develop plantar warts, teenagers and children as well as those with compromised immune systems are at greater risk to develop the condition.

Treatment of plantar warts

Most cases of plantar warts do not require any treatment as they fade away within a few years. In case, there is spread of plantar warts or if they cause pain, then treatment may be required.

Smaller planter warts are easier to treat than larger ones. However, all cases of plantar warts do not easily respond to treatment and they also tend to reoccur. Hence, almost all treatments for plantar warts require persistence, patience and multiplicity of interventions.

Some of the treatment methods for plantar warts include the following:

  • Cantharidin combined with salicylic acid is applied on the plantar wart and then bandaged. It results in the formation of a painful blister which then heals in about a week. The dead part is then clipped off.
  • Cryotherapy which involves the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze the plantar wart. It results in a painful blister around the wart which heals within a week and then the dead tissue falls off.
  • Immunotherapy that involves the injection of interferon or antigen to boost or stimulate the immune system to reject or fight off the plantar warts. The treatment method may be painful.
  • Surgery to remove the wart or the use of an electric needle to destroy the plantar wart. It results in scarring.
  • Application of imiquimod cream on the plantar warts. This causes the immune system to fight HPV. It may result in inflammation of the areas adjacent to the wart as well as damage to the surrounding tissues. In case of such a reaction this treatment method is stopped.
  • Laser treatment to burn and destroy the wart. It may result in scarring.

Plantar warts pictures

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