Plantar warts and other types of warts (verruca) are very common to the feet. A plantar wart is a wart on the bottom of the foot. Plantar warts are generally described as a small, medium or large, elevated callused tissue that has small black specks in the center. These specks are the blood supply to the wart. Warts are caused by a viral infection, specifically by human papillomavirus 2 and 7. There are many varieties of warts with the most common being considered largely harmless. It is possible to get warts from others; they are contagious. They have an incubation period from 1 to 9 months before they are visible, making it difficult to determine where the wart virus was picked up.
There are different types of warts, varying in shape and site affected as well as the type of human papillomavirus involved. These include:
Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus tends to invade the skin where there is high pressure or a break in skin integrity. Once established, the wart encapsulates and grows. This can manifest in many ways, but typically on the foot where a hard callous around the lesion forms and becomes painful.
There are many different treatments and procedures associated with wart removal. The Foot and Ankle Center’s common treatments are all provided below. They vary from patient to patient depending on the severity, chronicity, previous treatments and other circumstances. We review what treatment options that we feel are best for the patient. Treatments options may include:
Imiquimod, a topical cream that helps the body's immune system fight the wart virus by encouraging interferon production.
Cantharidin, a natural blistering agent found in the Meloidae family of the blister beetle. When applied, the skin blisters and the wart comes off with the surface skin.
Fluorouracil, which inhibits DNA synthesis, is applied directly to the wart (especially plantar warts) and covered (for example: with tape). This treatment is combined with the use of a pumice stone, but tends to work very slowly.
Salicylic acid, prescribed by a dermatologist in a higher concentration than over-the-counter products, has an average cure rate of 75%.
Keratolysis, peeling of dead surface skin cells usually using salicylic acid, blistering agents, immune system modifiers (immunomodulators), or formaldehyde, often with mechanical paring of the wart with a pumice stone, blade etc.
Cryosurgery, which involves freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen.
Laser treatment, which is less destructive and more likely to heal without scarring. Laser works by vaporizing and destroying tissue and skin.
Cimetidine, has been shown to work in the removal of warts in certain studies. While the exact mechanism is unknown, it is thought to heighten the state of the immune system and 'alert' the body about the wart and destroy it.
There are several over-the-counter (OTC) options. Most OTC treatments are not very effective in eradicating the plantar wart. The most common OTC treatments involve salicylic acid. Cryotherapy (freezing with freon) is inexpensive but the disadvantage is that the OTC applicator is too large for small warts, and the temperature achieved is not nearly as effective as liquid nitrogen used in a physician’s office.