Plantar warts

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1. Overview

Plantar warts are the result of viral infections, being some of the most common skin disorders. They can be located anywhere on the plantar (foot) and are accompanied by symptoms if they are located on the areas that are exposed to pressure or friction by legs movement. The incubation period is unknown, but is supposed to vary from several months to several years.

The virus that causes warts, human papillomavirus, infects the top layer of skin, forming a thick layer of skin. If this thick layer is under pressure it becomes painful. Although warts sensations usually disappear by themselves, in some cases may need to treat them, especially when their presence negatively affects an individual’s ability to walk.


1. Overview
2. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
3. Risk factors
4. Causes
5. Signs and symptoms
6. When to seek medical advice
7. Diagnosis
8. Treatment

2. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

There are at least 120 different types of human papilloma virus (HPV), but only certain types are responsible for the appearance of our skin warts. Some forms of the virus tend to infect specific anatomical areas such as plantar surface of the foot.

Other types of HPV affect the genital tract and can be one of the causes of cervical cancer and other genital cancers.

Warts are omnipresent infections. At least half of adults are infected during their lives. Plantar warts are found in all age groups, but they are most common among children aged between 12 and 16 years and more frequently in the elderly.

3. Risk factors

The main risk factors underlying the development of plantar warts are:
- Use of public showers or baths;
- Skin trauma;
- Weakened immune system due to conditions or certain medicines.

4. Causes

These uncomfortable growths are caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) that multiply in warm, moist areas such as the pool area, locker rooms and bathrooms. The pathogen is highly contagious and can survive for several months without a human host.

The only way to contact is through direct contact and HPV viral transmission path is through cuts, scratches or other damage of the legs skin. When an infected person goes barefoot on the floor, virus particles can be released and can be contacted by another person who touches the same surface. Another possibility of infection is to use the same towel used by a person who already has warts.

5. Signs and symptoms

The main manifestations of plantar warts include:
- Leg pain and feeling of lump under the skin;
- Leg or back pain due to bad posture;
- Hard and firm dark growths or bumps. These dark spots contain blood clots.
- Smooth surface with a gray-yellow or brown color.

Warts are located in pressure areas or in foot bones areas and can be flat because of pressure exerted on them. In some cases warts can be clustered, while the merger may take the form of a mosaic.

6. When to seek medical advice

Consult the doctor directly if the warts will not heal after a simple home treatment. A dermatologist intervention may be necessary for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

Usually, warts appear in an area where is a corn that has not been observed previously. Calluses and corns develop gradually over several years.

7. Diagnosis

The doctor will establish the diagnosis after observing the problem. If there are doubts, he may require harvesting of tissue samples and its analysis by a pathologist. The specialist may consider including the possibility of the presence of other problems that can cause similar symptoms (corns, calluses).

8. Treatment

Home self-care

Considering that warts may disappear by themselves after a few months without any local scar, you should not intervene too aggressively at least in a first step. For temporary relief of local pain will apply moleskin patch especially around the wart.

In most of the cases of symptomatic plantar warts discomfort is caused by friction or pressure that occurs on the thickened skin layer which acts directly on nerve tissue. Therefore, the simple non-traumatic removal of thickened skin could be the right option.

This can be done with a pumice stone or other abrasive material after foot was soaked in water for 20 minutes. However, people suffering from peripheral artery disease, diabetes or peripheral neuropathy should avoid this technique.

Salicylic acid

An alternative for removing the excess of keratin is local application of a preparation which contains salicylic acid gel or ointment. Carefully read the instructions included in the patient information leaflet as the application of this solution on a large area of skin, on wounds, lesions or exceeding the recommended amount of time for action can cause skin burning.

Rub the portion where were the warts with a pumice stone periodically. The affected area will soften for a few minutes in warm water before applying salicylic acid. This will amplify the effect of medication. It will remove any remaining tissue with a towel or brush and will dry out the skin.

It is important that the affected area to be covered as much as possible. If this treatment does not work after a few weeks, see your doctor to establish more aggressive methods for warts removing. It is not recommended the prolonged use of thus drug in infants, people with diabetes and those with impaired blood circulation.

Commercial preparations containing 17% salicylic acid and lactic acid 17% (approximately) can be applied daily after showering. Will let the preparation dry and the warts will be covered with a waterproof bandage which will be removed before the next shower.

Occlusion with adhesive tape

Another way to remove plantar warts is adhesive tape occlusion. This involves covering the wart with a special tape that will be maintained 24 hours a day six of the seven days of the week, for a period of six weeks.



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