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Family Foot & Ankle

Painful and Unsightly Plantar Warts

Warts: they aren’t just for witches and frogs anymore. Actually, they never were—it’s estimated that three quarters (or more!) of us will deal with these potentially embarrassing bumps at least once in our lives, usually in childhood or adolescence. Among the myriad dermatological conditions one could develop, only acne is more frequent.

Treating a Foot Wart

For all their ugliness, warts are typically harmless and painless. Kids get them quite frequently, but adults can pick them up too. However, when warts appear on weight-bearing portions of your sole—say, the heel or the ball of your feet—the excess pressure can be quite uncomfortable. Called plantar warts, these grainy growths can even start to grow inward, buried under a tough callus.

Plantar warts are caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV. These infectious agents that thrive in dark, warm environments latch onto feet through cracks or breaks in the skin. Walk barefoot in a locker room or put on a sweaty pair of shoes and you might find a bump on your foot starting to form.

Depending on your level of discomfort, an in-office visit may not be necessary right away—you might try some at-home treatment methods first. If the bump isn’t causing any pain, you can even just ignore it—it may take a couple of years, but many times the virus that causes warts will ultimately succumb to your immune system, and the bump will fade over time.

Although reports of its effectiveness are mixed, some people say they’ve had success using duct tape. Try leaving the tape on the wart for six days, then remove the tape, soak your feet, and gently use a pumice stone or emery board to file off layers of dead skin. It may take several cycles to fully remove the growth.

Over-the-counter wart treatments are also available, and may be more effective than the duct tape method (although by no means a guaranteed success). These will come with instructions and generally involve using a peeling medicine like salicylic acid, in liquid form or as a patch. Apply the medication and use a pumice stone or emery board to debride dead skin as directed. This may also require several cycles.

If at-home methods have failed, the discomfort is more severe, or if the bump is causing you to alter your standing and walking posture (which itself can lead to muscle and joint pain), call the doctors at Family Foot and Ankle Center, Inc. Don't attempt to cut off the wart! We can evaluate your condition and determine the best course of action to help you eliminate stubborn plantar warts.

In addition to being able to provide prescription-strength salicylic acid, we can also perform cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen. In this process, a small amount of the liquid is applied to the wart, freezing it. The frozen skin then can be filed or picked off. You may require a couple of office visits to completely remove a particularly pesky bump but, generally speaking, at-home use of the peeling medicine plus occasional visits to the doctor for cryotherapy is often an effective combination. Other potentially successful methods include laser removal, immune therapy, HPV vaccination, and surgery via electric needle.

Plantar warts can be a frustrating foe—they often take time, patience, and vigilance to remove completely. As always, the best policy is prevention. Make sure you (or your kids) keep your feet clean and dry, change socks and shoes as necessary (at a minimum, daily), and avoid going barefoot in public. Don’t touch warts (even your own) with your hands and, if you do, wash your hands thoroughly and carefully afterward.

If you’re struggling with these unsightly bumps, especially if they’re causing pain or discomfort, call Family Foot and Ankle Center, Inc. We are Greater Cincinnati’s wart removal experts, with the tools and experience you need to alleviate your discomfort. Give us a call at (513) 728-4800 in Ohio or (859) 282-1572 in Kentucky and schedule an appointment at one of our six area offices. We look forward to seeing you!