A wart is an infection caused by a virus, which can enter through a small cut or break in the skin. A wart is commonly seen on the bottom of the foot (plantar wart), but it can also appear on the top or between the toes. Children, teens, and people with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to the wart virus. Because a wart is a virus, it is transmittable.
Warts may appear spongy, with tiny red, brown, or black spots in them. They can grow up to an inch or more across, and can occur alone (solitary) or with smaller warts clustered nearby (mosaic). Warts are sometimes mistaken for corns or calluses. They can persist for years, and reoccur in the same spot. If left untreated, warts can spread to other parts of the foot, to the hand, or other areas of the body. They can be painful when they are on weight bearing areas of the foot.
There are many ways to treat warts, depending on their size, depth and location. It is important to remember that warts may reoccur even after they have been removed. A few of the possible treatments are described as follows:
Medication: The wart is broken down by applying an acidic solution. Blister-forming solutions may also be used. The treatment may need to be repeated over several weeks.
Curettage: The wart is removed with a small, spoon-shaped instrument (curette). A local anesthetic is often used with this procedure to make it more comfortable.
Laser: The wart is destroyed using a laser with a specific wavelength that coagulates the blood vessels to the wart. This causes the wart to starve and turn black. Anesthetics may or may not be used depending on the size of the wart.
Some of the over-the-counter treatments can damage the skin, and may be dangerous. If you have diabetes or poor circulation, check with your physician before using them.
After your podiatrist treats your warts, protect your feet from future infection by keeping them clean and dry. Wearing sandals in public places, showers or locker rooms may also prevent you from getting them. If you develop a wart it is easier to treat it before it gets too large, spreads or multiplies.
*photo credit: The StayWell Company / Krames Patient Education