Plantar warts are small hard bumps that usually occur on the sole of the foot or on the toes, varying in size from just a few millimetres to more than a centimetre. As with other types of warts, they are caused by the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) of which there are about 120 different strains. Only a few of the strains cause plantar warts.
WHO GETS PLANTAR WARTS?
The virus responsible for plantar warts thrives in warm, moist environments such as public changing rooms, swimming areas and showers. They are caught through contact with virally-infected skin cells which enter the skin through tiny breaks on the surface of the skin. While infectious, they aren't considered highly contagious as they aren't easily transferred from contact between people.
Plantar warts can affect anyone, however they are most common among children and teenagers. Some people seem to be more susceptible to catching plantar warts than others although the reasons for this aren't clear. They are not hereditary. Factors that increase risk of infection include having a weakened immunity system, cuts on the feet and being a frequent user of public changing rooms and showers.
HOW TO PREVENT PLANTAR WARTS?
* Wear shoes in public areas such as swimming pools, changing rooms and showers.
* Keep feet clean and dry.
* Don't share personal items, such as towels and shoes.
* Don't ignore changes to the skin under your feet.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PLANTAR WARTS:
The characteristics of a plantar wart include:
* Pain that feels like a lump beneath the foot.
* A localised hardening of the skin where the wart is growing inwards.
* A rough surface that protrudes slightly above the skin's surface, with a horny rim.
* Small, grainy lesions with tiny pinpoint dark spots inside on the soles (blocked blood vessels).
* Several warts clustered into a small area. These are known as mosaic warts and form a large single lesion.
TREATMENT OF PLANTAR WARTS:
Plantar warts are usually diagnosed by sight. They look similar to corns but they can be distinguished by the existence of small black dots and the interruption of the ridgelines on the soles of the feet in the affected area.
While these types of warts are not a serious health concern, they can be painful due to the fact they tend to develop on the weight-bearing parts of the feet such as the heels and the balls of the feet. Most often plantar warts disappear on their own, however by treating it fast, it has less time to spread and will help with the pain. Options include:
* Over-the-counter preparations: Products containing salicylic acid to remove the hard outer layer of the wart. For example Duofilm Topical Solution
* Freezing: Using liquid nitrogen to destroy the wart with the chemical. This can be done at home using over-the-counter products such as Wartner Wart Remover, or at the doctors. It can be painful.
* Minor surgery: Carried out under local anaesthetic. It involves cutting away the plantar ward with an electric needle. Can be painful and cause scarring.
* Laser treatment: Used for multiple or mosaic plantar warts. It can be painful and cause scarring.