Most foot warts (or plantar warts) are harmless, even though they may be painful. The clinical term is verruca. They are often mistaken for corns or callouses, which are layers of dead skin that build up to protect an area which is being continuously irritated. A wart, however, is caused by a viral infection which invades the skin through small or invisible cuts and abrasions. Foot warts are generally raised and fleshy and can appear anywhere on the foot or toes. Occasionally, warts can spontaneously disappear after a short time, and then, just as frequently, they recur in the same location. If left untreated, warts can grow to an inch or more in circumference and can spread into clusters of warts. Children, especially teenagers, tend to be more susceptible to warts than adults.
Warts may have a center that appears as one or more pinpoints of black discoloration, this is the capillary blood supply dried up after the virus has used it to grow. Plantar warts are often contracted by walking barefoot on dirty surfaces or littered ground. The virus that causes plantar warts thrives in warm, moist environments, making infection a common occurrence in public pools and locker rooms.
Like any other infectious lesion, plantar warts are spread by touching, scratching, or even by contact with skin shed from another wart. The wart may also bleed, another route for spreading.
To prevent the spread of warts, follow these tips:
- Avoid direct contact with warts, both from other persons or from other parts of the body.
- Avoid walking barefoot, even on sandy beaches.
- Change your shoes and socks daily.
- Check your children's feet periodically.
- Keep your feet clean and dry, even between the toes.
- Avoid public whirlpool use at manicure/pedicure salons.
It is important to note that warts can be very resistant to treatment and have a tendency to reoccur. Over-the-counter foot wart treatments are usually ineffective because their use can inadvertently destroy surrounding healthy tissue. Treatments range from prescription topicals, oral medications, cryotherapy (freezing the wart), excision, and even laser destruction.