Plantar warts are a common complaint that we see as podiatrists, especially common in children.
Often mistaken for a corn, a plantar wart is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and is a benign lesion of the outer surfaces of the skin on the foot or toes. It can sometimes appear as a white, circular lesion with small black dots throughout. We often describe the wart as having a “cauliflower” like appearance.
A plantar wart can sometimes cause pain with direct pressure from walking or from footwear. Given that plantar warts are a virus, they commonly present with more than one lesion, as they can spread.
A Podiatrist will usually diagnose a plantar wart based on appearance and whether or not pain can be elicited with medial-lateral compression of the lesion. Pinpoint bleeding may also occur with debridement of the hardened skin over the top of the lesion.
Signs and symptoms
Plantar Warts may appear as a single lesion with the “cauliflower” like appearance or they can also spread and fuse into clusters known as ‘mosaic warts’. They are often a similar colour to the skin, with a slight white/yellow hue. There are sometimes small black dots seen in the lesion. Some plantar warts can be painful, particularly if they are in a weight bearing area.
Plantar warts are usually spread in environments where people tend to walk barefoot (ie. Swimming pools, communal showers, hotel floors etc). A plantar wart can lie dormant in the skin for up to 2 years. When our body’s immune system is low, that’s usually when the virus will show up in the skin. Steps to reduce your risk of getting a plantar wart include:
- Wearing thongs around public swimming pools and in the communal change rooms and showers;
- Don’t share towels;
- If you do have a plantar wart, keep it covered with an adhesive band-aid when swimming to prevent further spread of infection to others; and
- Quitting smoking as smoking reduces your immune system and makes treating plantar warts very difficult.
There is no current vaccine available for prevention of the strain of HPV that causes plantar warts however there are many over the counter treatments available for plantar warts, which can be effective if the lesion is treated soon after it’s first presentation. They are usually available from your pharmacy.
In the Podiatry clinic, we have access to more advanced topical preparations to treat plantar warts such as:
- High dose Salicylic acid
- Liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy)
- Cantherone Plus
These treatments have been found to be effective in treating stubborn plantar warts and often treatment doesn’t involve any pain, which is why they are often suitable for kids.
Other treatment options for plantar warts include:
- Curettage (scooping the lesion out of the skin)
- Surgical excision
Plantar warts often respond to treatment better when caught early. If you think you might have a plantar wart, book an appointment with one of our podiatrists or call 03 9939 1012 to discuss the condition and how to best treat it.