A plantar wart is caused by the human papillomavirus (HVP), which causes the top layer of skin to thicken in a small area. Some warts stay small, but they can grow quite large and cluster an entire area of the foot if left untreated.
Anyone can get them, but some people are more susceptible. Children between 12 and 16 are most affected by plantar warts because they're more likely to go barefoot in public areas. In addition, those who have undergone an organ transplant or chemotherapy are at risk because their immune systems are compromised. Plantar warts are exclusive to the feet: There is no chance that this type of wart will spread to other areas of your body.
The virus that causes plantar warts can enter the body through a cut or small abrasion on the foot. Plantar warts spread easily throughout community areas such as public swimming pools, change rooms and anyplace you'd walk barefoot. They can also spread from one family member to another if the carrier doesn't wear shoes or slippers indoors.
A plantar wart usually starts off as a small, rough yellow or brown spot on the sole of the foot. Initially, it won't even be that noticeable, but over time, it will grow and resemble a callous. A plantar wart is flat against the skin and peppered with small black specks, which are broken blood vessels. Although plantar warts aren't dangerous to your health, their presence can result in foot pain due to pressure on your sole when walking.
Although some plantar warts go away on their own, stubborn warts can take up to two years to diminish. In the meantime, the wart has a chance to spread to other areas of the foot, resulting in a cluster that will be more difficult to treat. You'll probably need medical intervention to eradicate a plantar wart. Here are a few strategies your doctor may employ or suggest:
Cryotherapy: Your doctor applies liquid nitrogen on the wart to freeze it, jumpstarting your immune system to fight the virus and diminish the wart.
Salicylic acid: Your doctor applies 40 percent liquid salicylic acid to the wart.
Laser and surgical removal: Laser treatment is successful in some cases. For very stubborn plantar warts that cause severe localized pain or are very deeply rooted, surgical removal is used as a last resort.
Over-the-counter kits: Over the last few years, some over-the-counter medications have become available. These products can be useful while the warts are still small but may not be work as well for large warts or a multitude in one area. They come with a freezing compound similar to what your doctor would use, but the ingredients typically are not as concentrated.
The best approach to preventing plantar warts is to be stringent about wearing shoes or sandals in public areas -- especially swimming pools, the beach and changing rooms of any sort. If a household member develops a plantar wart, ensure that she has her own towel and bath mat exclusively and wears shoes or slippers to prevent the warts from spreading. If you own a swimming pool or have regular access to one, seek treatment for the plantar wart as soon as possible to prevent the virus from spreading. A little precaution can keep your feet free of these pesky warts.
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