A wart is a fleshy growth that forms as the result of a viral infection. Warts can form on many different areas of the body, but when they appear on the soles or sides of the feet, they’re usually plantar warts. Plantar is a medical term for the bottoms of the feet. Plantar warts can cause considerable discomfort when walking or wearing shoes, and in some cases, they can bleed.
Like other warts, plantar warts form when a virus invades the body, usually through a very small opening in the skin on the bottom of the foot. Blisters and tiny cuts or scrapes provide ideal entry spots for these tiny pathogens to enter the skin. Once inside the body, the virus begins to replicate and grow. Although the wart may appear on or above the surface of the skin, the virus that causes plantar warts is rooted in much deeper tissues, and professional care is the best way to eliminate the virus so the wart can be permanently destroyed. The virus that causes warts usually is found in warm, damp environments like the floors of gym locker rooms or showers, or on the wet decking around hot tubs or pools. Wearing shoes of someone who’s infected can also spread the viral infection. Some people are more prone to developing plantar warts, including those with diabetes or circulatory or immune disorders.
Treatment begins with an evaluation of the wart to determine the extent of the infection. In a few cases when the wart appears atypical or “suspicious,” a biopsy may be taken to rule out skin cancer. Plantar warts can be stubborn to treat, and “home remedies” are no match for the deep viral infections. Although some over-the-counter products may appear to “dry up” warts, they rarely eradicate the virus, which is located in deeper tissues that can’t be penetrated by non-prescription topical creams. That means the virus will continue to reproduce and even spread to other areas of the foot, allowing the warts to return over time. Plantar warts require professional treatments aimed at destroying not only the visible wart, but also the underlying viral infection that causes the wart to form. Several options are available for treatment, including prescription-strength topical creams and oral medications designed to treat the infection systemically. Newer techniques like cryotherapy and laser removal can be very effective in destroying the wart and the virus.