Warts are tiny, fleshy, grainy growths that can appear anywhere on the skin—but frequently on hands and feet. Caused by a viral infection, they can spread to multiple places on your skin.

Although warts themselves are usually not painful, they can cause discomfort if positioned in a load-bearing area, such as the heels, balls of the feet, or base of the toes. (Warts on the soles are called plantar warts). They can also be a source of embarrassment and poor self confidence for children and adults alike.

How to Identify a Wart

WartsWarts are often confused with other small skin growths or blemishes. Warts tend to be small—about the width of a pencil eraser—and may appear grainy or rough. You can often see a black “pinpoint” at the center of the wart; this is actually a small, clotted blood vessel. Warts on the bottom of the feet tend to be flattened and pushed into the skin due to pressure, but warts in non-weight-bearing locations may be more raised.

There are two main types of plantar warts. Single or solitary warts appear alone, and may increase in size or multiply over time. Mosaic warts form in a cluster of several individual lesions in a single area, making them more difficult to isolate and treat.

What Causes Warts?

Warts are caused by an infection of one or more strands of the human papillomavirus, or HPV. (Not all strands of HPV cause warts, but some do.) Tiny cuts, breaks, or other weak spots in the skin allow the virus to enter. Children, the elderly, and anyone with a weak or compromised immune system is more likely to contract the problem.

Warts are usually transmitted through contact with infected surfaces. The virus thrives in dark, warm, and moist environments—think swimming pools, locker rooms, or a sweaty pair of shoes. Sometimes warts can be spread from person to person more directly, but this is rare.

Wart Treatment

Do Warts Need to Be Treated?

If your wart is not causing you any pain, embarrassment, or discomfort, you may choose to ignore it if you wish. Most warts will clear up on their own given enough time—however, this process may take months or even years. Treating them will clear up the problem much faster and reduce the risk that they will spread to other parts of your body, or to other people.

Should I Try to Treat My Wart Myself?

Although many over-the-counter “wart removal kits” are commercially sold—and we’ve heard all sorts of “home remedy” suggestions—we do not recommend you attempt to treat your wart yourself. Non-prescription wart removal strategies are almost always ineffective, and can often do more harm than good. This includes damage of healthy skin from peeling medications, accidental transmission of warts to hands or other parts of the feet, etc.

What Is the Best Way to Treat Plantar Warts?

The best way to deal with foot warts is to visit a podiatrist for follow-up care. A specialist can review your case carefully and determine what type of safe, effective, professional care will be most appropriate for your situation. Wart removal strategies include application of peeling medication, cryotherapy (freezing using liquid nitrogen or a similar substance), or surgical removal. There usually a trade-off between effectiveness and invasiveness, so gentler approaches may require more appointments to fully eradicate the wart.

If you or a loved one are frustrated with plantar warts and want them gone, please contact your local office of the Northwest Extremity Specialists today.