10 Jul 2019

 What is a plantar wart?

Plantar warts are small growths on the weightbearing surface of the foot caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). Due to pressure they may appear to grow inwards and be covered with a thick layer of skin. They can be isolated growths or spread over a large area in a pattern (mosaic warts).

What do they look like?

An area of rough, fleshy, painful, thickened skin often covered with black pinpoint dots (small clotted blood vessels). They are often mistaken for a corn however a wart lesion interrupts the normal striation lines of the skin and a corn does not.

Who can have them?

As they are a viral skin infection anyone can have a plantar wart but they are most common in children and teenagers. People with weakened immune systems or those who have had a wart previously are also more susceptible.

How do you get them?

The virus is easily contracted through a break in the skin commonly whilst walking barefoot around public pools and shower areas. They may also be contracted from direct contact with warts or emery boards and other implements that have been in contact with warts.


Some warts will spontaneously disappear however some sort of treatment is usually necessary and can include:

  • Acid treatment- most commonly salicylic acid is applied to cause keratolysis, peeling away of dead skin. Some of these treatment are available over the counter at your chemist however must be used specifically to the directions on the product.
  • Cryotherapy- liquid nitrogen and other similar products are used to freeze wart tissue and kill live tissue.
  • Immunotherapy- a new therapy where antigens are injected into the wart to provoke an immune response.
  • Surgical excision- this may produce scarring.
  • Cauterization- uses heat to burn wart tissue.
  • Laser- not common as it is expensive, painful and may produce scarring.

At Sure Step podiatry the treatment of choice for plantar warts is the careful use of Salycilic acid. Your podiatrist will carefully debride your wart and mask the surrounding area with protective dressing. Salycilic acid is then placed on the wart and left in place for up to 5 days. If the wart is painful your podiatrist will use special padding to deflect pressure away from the area. Multiple treatments may be required to treat the area.

People who have diabetes or are immunocompromised should seek professional advice before commencing any treatment.

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