Warts are raised, fleshy skin growths caused by a viral infection. They’re classified by their location on the body: palmar warts on the hands and plantar warts on the soles of the feet.
At Monroe Foot & Ankle Care, podiatric physician and surgeon Dr. Elliott Perel and his team understand that foot warts can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing, even if they’re not medically dangerous. That’s why they offer a number of treatment options for their patients in Jamesburg, New Jersey to eliminate the problem, including surgical wart removal.
What causes wart formation?
Plantar warts are caused by some strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), though not the types that cause genital warts. In fact, they’re not spread easily from person to person — they need a suitable environment.
The virus enters your body through small breaks in the skin of the soles of your feet. Your body weight pressing down causes the entry point to thicken and become callused, as the wart grows deeper into the skin. Plantar warts aren’t a health threat, but the calluses can be uncomfortable. In addition, you may have some irritation, pain, and/or minor bleeding at the site.
HPV thrives in warm, moist environments, which makes swimming pools and locker rooms ideal breeding grounds, and walking barefoot in those areas puts your foot health at risk. You’ll notice the wart forming at the point of entry, but the virus, once entrenched, can spread to other locations, causing the problem to multiply.
HPV is pretty much an “equal opportunity” invader, but it’s more likely to cause warts in:
- Children and teenagers (less fastidious about foot care)
- Immunocompromised individuals
- Those who’ve had an HPV infection before
- People walking barefoot in locker rooms
What symptoms do foot warts produce?
If you develop plantar warts, symptoms include:
- A small, fleshy growth, usually at the base of the toes or the heel
- A hard callus over the entry point
- Small, clotted blood vessels that appear as black dots on the callus
- Pain or tenderness when standing or walking
Why should you remove warts?
Warts aren’t medically dangerous, but that doesn’t mean they don’t affect your podiatric health.
Having plantar warts means you have HPV in your system, and viruses are masters of replicating themselves, even those that aren’t particularly contagious. You may go from having a single, uncomfortable wart to having a bunch of them at one time. And, you’re more vulnerable to becoming reinfected.
Developing wart clusters may also mean your immune system is compromised in some way, and it’s fueling the infection. Make an appointment with your primary care doctor to determine if you have an underlying condition, so you can get appropriate treatment for that.
In addition, warts that cause you pain or other discomfort can have serious consequences. It’s natural to shift your gait to avoid putting weight on the wart. However, that alters your body mechanics, and you may subsequently develop additional pain in your feet, legs, and even your back. Removing plantar warts is necessary to avoid all these problems.
Treating foot warts
While most warts clear up by themselves, it often takes about two years, which is a long time to wait. Fortunately, Dr. Perel offers several treatment options, including surgical removal.
Prescription immunotherapy drugs help rev up your immune system to fight the virus causing the warts. Medications like cantharidin (which comes from the blister beetle) cause the wart to form a blister and fall off. And salicylic acid applied directly to the wart can dissolve its layers.
If conservative treatments don’t prove effective, Dr. Perel can remove your warts surgically, in one of a few ways:
- An electric needle: destroys the base of the wart
- Cryotherapy: uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart, causing it to drop off
- Micro excision: uses a scalpel to cut the wart out without damaging surrounding skin
In all cases, Dr. Perel can numb the area first so you don’t feel anything, and he covers the wound with a bandage to keep the area clean while it heals. Once it does heal, it’s like it never was there at all; scarring is minimal.
Preventing warts in the first place is ideal, and aside from always wearing shoes or flip-flops in moist areas, Dr. Perel also recommends custom orthotics. These inserts slip right into your shoe and cushion the weight-bearing areas of your foot, preventing you from altering your gait.
If you’ve got plantar warts, there’s no time like the present to get them removed. Call Monroe Foot & Ankle Care at 732-521-6166 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Perel, or book online with us today.