The Truth about Warts

You've noticed a strange growth on your foot. It may have appeared on the sole or on one of your toes, and it may have appeared as part of a cluster. You may wonder if you have a bite or a splinter, but as the growth develops, you realize the truth. You have plantar warts.

Warts look unsightly and often cause pain, so you'll want to get rid of them as soon as possible. This page will give you all the information you need to understand this condition and get treatment.

Why Do You Get Warts?

Although children and teens get warts more often, adults can get them too. They form when human papillomavirus gets into your skin via a cut, tear or scrape. Normally, your body can fight off human papillomavirus and stop warts before they form; however, if you fall into either of these two categories, your immune system may not have the ability to keep up.

Your Feet Frequently Get Cuts and Scrapes

If you run barefoot, frequently pick at hangnails on your toes, or work somewhere with a high foot injury risk, then your immune system may face constant bombardment. As scrapes, cuts or tears accumulate, your immune system will have to work harder to keep up, and eventually it could let some of the virus through.

You Have a Weakened Immune System Due to Medication/Illness

Many conditions, like HIV or diabetes, weaken your immune system and increase your chances of developing warts. Antibiotics and other medications will too. So if you have a condition or take a medication that weakens your immune system, take special care of your feet.

How Do You Know If You Have Warts?

Even if you take care of your feet, you could develop warts at some point. Watch for these symptoms to make sure you have plantar warts and not some other condition:

  • You'll usually have a somewhat raised bump with a flat top, but often plantar warts grow into your foot rather than out of it.
  • The area will have a lighter colour than the rest of your skin—however, sometimes warts will grow black. Advanced warts will have black dots in them.
  • The spot will itch or cause pain, particularly when you step on it. It may feel like having a pebble in your shoe.
  • These warts may grow in clusters. You'll often have one large wart with smaller ones clustered around it.

Even if you have these symptoms, your podiatrist may take a sample to make sure you don't have skin cancer.

How Do You Treat Warts?

You'll probably have to see your podiatrist to get rid of them, so schedule an appointment before you do anything else. In the meantime, you can use these tips to ease your discomfort, stop the spread, and possibly eliminate the warts yourself:

  • Buy salicylic acid over the counter. After you get out of the shower, apply this acid to the warts. The next day, right before your shower, file the dead parts of the wart off. The acid dissolves the wart and the virus that caused it. However, this treatment doesn't always work.
  • Put a bandage around the warts. A bandage will keep the warts from spreading to the rest of your foot or even your hands.
  • Buy an insert or other kind of foot insert to relieve pain/pressure. You'll probably have to continue going to work while you wait for your appointment. An insert will keep you from wincing every time you take a step.

Do not try to cut, burn or freeze your warts off by yourself. You may injure yourself, and you'll have to pay for medical treatment instead of a simple wart removal.

When Should You Seek Professional Treatment?

You should seek professional treatment if the warts won't disappear on their own or with over-the-counter treatments. You should also contact a podiatrist immediately if your warts develop any of the following complications:

  • The wart is visibly infected (it has redness/puffiness, pus, or discharge).
  • The wart won't stop bleeding.
  • The wart changes colour—this often indicates cancer.
  • The wart causes extreme pain.
  • You have a condition or take a medication that weakens your immune system. Over-the-counter treatments may do more harm than good in your situation.

Professionals can safely cut, freeze or burn warts off, and they can prescribe you medications that'll prevent warts from returning. So even if you don't experience complications, you should still schedule an appointment with your podiatrist to get the warts removed as soon as possible.

How Do You Prevent Warts?

If you wear socks or shoes, you'll have a lower risk of developing warts. You'll also lower your risk if you wash your feet thoroughly every day and if you avoid direct contact with warts on other people's skin. People rarely catch warts from other people, but it can happen.

Don't let warts keep you from walking or standing comfortably, and don't let them make you too embarrassed to go outside without socks or closed-toe shoes. Schedule an appointment with your podiatrist and use this information to dispatch those warts today.