What is a Plantar Wart?
A wart is a small growth on the skin that develops when the skin is infected by a virus. Warts can develop anywhere on the foot, but typically they appear on the bottom (plantar side) of the foot. Plantar warts most commonly occur in children, adolescents, and the elderly.
There are two types of plantar warts:
- A solitary wart is a single wart. It often increases in size and may eventually multiply, forming additional “satellite” warts.
- Mosaic warts are a cluster of several small warts growing closely together in one area. Mosaic warts are more difficult to treat than solitary warts.
What Causes a Plantar Wart?
Plantar warts are caused by direct contact with the human papilloma virus (HPV). This is the same virus that causes warts on other areas of the body. Typically, the plantar wart virus is acquired in public places where people go barefoot, such as locker rooms, swimming pools, and karate classes. It can also be acquired at home if other family members have the virus.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To diagnose a plantar wart, the foot and ankle surgeon will examine the patient’s foot and look for signs and symptoms of a wart.
Although plantar warts may eventually clear up on their own, most patients desire faster relief. The goal of treatment is to completely remove the wart.
The foot and ankle surgeon may use topical or oral treatments, laser therapy, cryotherapy (freezing), or surgery to remove the wart.
Regardless of the treatment approaches undertaken, it is important that the patient follow the surgeon’s instructions, including all home care and medication that has been prescribed, as well as follow-up visits with the surgeon. Warts may return, requiring further treatment.
If there is no response to treatment, further diagnostic evaluation may be necessary. In such cases, the surgeon can perform a biopsy to rule out other potential causes for the growth.
Although there are many folk remedies for warts, patients should be aware that these remain unproven and may be dangerous. Patients should never try to remove a wart themselves—this can do more harm than good.
©2008 American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
The ACFAS presents this educational reference as a public service and for informational purposes only. The material is derived from the current medical knowledge on the topics listed. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the opinions of the ACFAS membership.