Plantar warts are benign cutaneous tumours which grow on the soles of the feet. They are caused by select strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) and although are relatively harmless, can cause irritation and discomfort. When lesions grow on the soles of the feet, they are exposed to high levels of pressure which causes them to grow further back into the dermal layer of the skin. Plantar warts are more commonly seen in children and those with compromised immunity. They are also more common in swimmers, because maceration of the skin caused by the pool surfaces breaks down the skin, the body’s natural immune barrier.
Signs and Symptoms
Plantar warts can be difficult to distinguish from kerotosis lesions (corns and calluses). They are often covered by a layer of callus when situated underneath the foot. Once that overlying callus has been debrided by a Podiatrist, diagnosis is relatively simple to make on clinical observations. Plantar wart lesions have a ‘cauliflower-like’ appearance and contain small black dots within them. These black dots represent thrombosed capillaries that have developed within the lesion. As lesions contain capillaries, they are prone to bleeding when injured. Since plantar warts are caused by a virus, they are slightly contagious (can spread from person to person). You should not share clothing or linen with someone who has plantar warts. Plantar warts may spread on the body and seed other areas.
Podiatrists recommend having plantar warts treated when they cause pain, if they spread to other areas or multiply in number, if they increase in size, or simply if they are interfering with getting on with day to day activities. There are numerous treatments available including topical applications available from pharmacies; cryotherapy; debridement with caustic application; surgical debridement; and laser therapy. Your podiatrist will discuss treatment options with you, and you will both decide on the best option for you.