Warts are raised, fleshy growths on your skin. They’re caused by a viral infection, and some are named according to their location on the body: palmar warts on the hands, plantar warts on the feet, and genital warts on the external reproductive organs.
At Monroe Foot & Ankle Care, in Jamesburg, New Jersey, podiatric physician and surgeon Dr. Elliott Perel and our team understand that plantar warts can be embarrassing and make you want to cover up, even in the warm weather. But, while they’re not medically dangerous, they’re more than just a cosmetic issue, as they do impact your podiatric health. That’s why we offer a number of treatment options to eliminate the problem.
What causes warts?
Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), though the strains that affect the feet aren’t the ones that affect the genitals. And while you can develop warts in new locations after the initial infection, they’re not especially contagious. To spread from one person to the next, they need a suitable environment.
Your feet become infected when the virus enters through small cuts in the soles. The weight of your body presses down on the entry points, causing the area to thicken and become callused as the wart grows down into the skin. Plantar warts aren’t a health threat, but the calluses can lead to some discomfort, and the warts themselves can cause irritation, pain, and/or minor bleeding.
So, what puts you at risk? Well, HPV thrives in warm, moist environments, making places like swimming pools and locker rooms fertile breeding grounds. Walking barefoot in those areas gives the virus access. Wearing shoes of any kind is enough to prevent HPV from spreading.
Why should you remove warts?
Yes, warts can make you feel embarrassed, but if they aren’t particularly contagious or medically dangerous, why should you remove them? Because they still impact your podiatric health.
Developing warts means you have HPV in your system, and viruses, even strains that aren’t particularly contagious, are masters at replicating. You may start with just one uncomfortable wart, only to find a bunch popping up near it later. And, once infected, you become more likely to become reinfected.
In addition, developing wart clusters may mean your immune system is compromised and can’t battle the infection. Your primary care doctor can determine if you have an underlying medical condition so you can get treatment for that.
Warts that cause discomfort or pain can also have serious consequences. It’s natural to want to avoid putting weight on the sore spot, but altering your gait alters your whole body’s mechanics. That can lead to additional pain in your feet, legs, and even your lower back. When you remove the warts, you prevent these problems from developing.
Treating plantar warts
Most warts clear up by themselves, but it can take a couple of years, and you probably don’t want to wait that long. Fortunately, Dr. Perel offers several treatment options, always starting with the conservative ones.
The first line of treatment includes immunotherapy drugs to help your body fight HPV, medications like cantharidin that cause the wart to blister and fall off, and salicylic acid applied directly to the wart, which dissolves its layers.
Another option is custom orthotics. You wear them inside your shoe to help cushion the weight-bearing areas of your foot so you don’t alter your gait.
If conservative treatments don’t work, Dr. Perel can use one of three surgical techniques to excise the wart:
- An electric needle that destroys the wart base
- Cryotherapy, which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart so it blisters and drops off
- A micro excision that uses a scalpel to cut the wart out without damaging surrounding skin
No matter which technique he uses, Dr. Perel numbs the area first, so there’s no pain. Once he’s done, he covers the wound to keep the area clean while it heals.
If you’re embarrassed about or uncomfortable with your warts, Monroe Foot & Ankle Care offers the treatment you need for clearer skin. To get started, give the office a call at 732-978-9569, or book online with us today.