What they are?
They are commonly found on the bottom of the foot, heel and toes, which is why they are called plantar warts – ‘plantar’ means bottom. They can also be found between the toes, and even on top or on the sides of the foot. The technical term for foot warts is Plantar Verrucae, caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus is introduced to the skin via exposure through an opening, like a cut or abrasion. This is why we most often find them on the bottom of the foot, after having been barefoot on abrasive surfaces (swimming pools, cement, etc.) or using public showers.
What they look like?
Plantar warts may appear as single growths or a bunch close together. They generally grow out of the skin, and you may often see black, pinpoint specks in the base, which sometimes appear grainy like a group of little splinters. Warts are also generally painful when pressed on the sides. And while plantar warts can generally be self-diagnosed, I don’t recommend you diagnose them yourself. There are lesions that may appear wart-like, but are something quite different, and may require medical attention. Only a competent foot doctor will be able to reliably tell the difference.
How to prevent them?
The HPV vaccine does not directly aid in wart treatment, but may be beneficial in prevention. We do recommend the vaccine for prevention of cancers and other diseases. The viral particles are everywhere, so my best advice is to use socks, shoes, sandals, or flip flops when on abrasive surfaces, and limit the use of public showers.
How to treat them?
Warts are a nuisance, a pain, and can be very difficult to get rid of. Yet, somehow, we all feel like we can handle them with a simple over the counter remedy which, more often than not, doesn’t do its job and just makes things worse. Avoid the “DIY” syndrome – see a doctor. Eradicating the wart is so much easier with proper medical care. Those over the counter products are not worth wasting your time. You might be wondering how the pros do it, then. We destroy the lesion utilizing controlled techniques with scalpels, acids, lasers, and cryotherapy. Doctors recognize that every patient is different, so I personally choose the specific treatment protocol based on the size and quantity of the warts, as well as the patient’s toleration level.
Ari Rubinstein DPM
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