Plantar wart removal options and treatment (VIDEO)

Plantar warts are small growths that usually appear on the heels or other weight-bearing areas of your feet. This pressure may also cause plantar warts to grow inward beneath a hard, thick layer of skin (callus).

Plantar warts are caused by HPV. The virus enters your body through tiny cuts, breaks or other weak spots on the bottom of your feet.

Most plantar warts aren’t a serious health concern and usually go away without treatment eventually. You may want to try self-care treatments or see your doctor to have the warts removed.

Symptoms
Plantar wart signs and symptoms include:

  • A small, fleshy, rough, grainy growth (lesion) on the bottom of your foot, usually the base of the toes and forefoot or the heel
  • Hard, thickened skin (callus) over a well-defined “spot” on the skin, where a wart has grown inward
  • Black pinpoints, which are commonly called wart seeds but are actually small, clotted blood vessels
  • A lesion that interrupts the normal lines and ridges in the skin of your foot
  • Pain or tenderness when walking or standing

When to see a doctor
See your doctor for the lesion on your foot if:

  • The lesion is bleeding, painful or changes in appearance or color
  • You’ve tried treating the wart, but it persists, multiplies or recurs
  • Your discomfort interferes with activities
  • You also have diabetes or poor sensation in your feet
  • You also have a weakened immune system because of immune-suppressing drugs, HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders
  • You aren’t sure whether the lesion is a wart

Surgical or other procedures
If salicylic acid and freezing medicine don’t work, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

  • Other acids. Your doctor shaves the surface of the wart and applies trichloroacetic acid with a wooden toothpick. You’ll need to return to the doctor’s office for repeat treatments every week or so. Side effects include burning and stinging. Between visits, you may be asked to apply salicylic acid to the wart.
  • Immune therapy. This method uses medications or solutions to stimulate your immune system to fight viral warts. Your doctor may inject your warts with a foreign substance (antigen) or apply a solution or cream to the warts.
  • Minor surgery. Your doctor cuts away the wart or destroys it by using an electric needle (electrodesiccation and curettage). This procedure can be painful, so your doctor will numb your skin first. Because surgery has a risk of scarring, this method usually isn’t used to treat plantar warts unless other treatments have failed.
  • Laser treatment. Pulsed-dye laser treatment burns closed (cauterizes) tiny blood vessels. The infected tissue eventually dies, and the wart falls off. This method requires repeat treatments every three to four weeks. The evidence for the effectiveness of this method is limited, and it can cause pain and potentially scarring.
  • Vaccine. HPV vaccine has been used with success to treat warts even though this vaccine is not specifically targeted toward the wart virus that causes the majority of plantar warts.
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Lifestyle and home remedies
Many people have removed warts with these self-care tips:

  • Peeling medicine (salicylic acid). Nonprescription wart removal products are available as a patch or liquid. Usually, you’re instructed to wash the site, soak it in warm water, and gently remove the top layer of softened skin with a pumice stone or emery board. Then after the skin has dried, you apply the solution or patch. Patches are usually changed every 24 to 48 hours. Liquid applications are generally used daily. You may need repeated applications on a regular basis over several weeks to months to see results.
  • Freezing medicine (cryotherapy). Nonprescription medicines that freeze the wart include Compound W Freeze Off and Dr. Scholl’s Freeze Away. The Food and Drug Administration cautions that some wart removers are flammable and shouldn’t be used around fire, flame, heat sources (such as curling irons) and lit cigarettes.
  • Duct tape. Using duct tape to remove warts is a harmless but unproven approach. To try it, cover the wart with silver duct tape, changing it every few days. Between applications, soak the wart and gently remove dead tissue with a pumice stone or emery board. Then leave the wart open to the air to dry for a few hours before covering it with tape again.

Tips for preventing plantar warts
To prevent a plantar wart, consider the following tips:

  • Always cover your feet in shared community spaces, such as pools, locker rooms, or dorms.
  • Ask your doctor about receiving the HPV vaccine, which may help prevent warts, though more research is needed.
  • If you have a wart, change your shoes and socks daily.
  • Keep the wart covered and wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading plantar warts to other people.
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