What are Plantar Warts?
Warts are one of several soft tissue conditions of the foot that can be quite painful. They are caused by a virus which generally invades the skin through small or invisible cuts and abrasions. They can appear anywhere on the skin; plantar warts are specifically warts that develop on the sole of the foot.
Children, especially teenagers, tend to be more susceptible to warts than adults; some people seem to be immune.
Most warts are harmless, even though they may be painful. They are often mistaken for corns or calluses, which are layers of dead skin that build up to protect an area which is being continuously irritated. The wart, however, is a viral infection.
It is also possible for a variety of more serious lesions to appear on the foot, including malignant lesions such as carcinomas and melanomas. Although rare, these conditions can sometimes be misidentified as warts. It is wise to consult a podiatric physician when any suspicious growth or eruption is detected on the skin of the foot in order to ensure a correct diagnosis.
Plantar warts tend to be hard and flat, with a rough surface and well-defined boundaries; they are generally raised and fleshier when they appear on the top of the foot or on the toes. Plantar warts are often gray or brown (but the color may vary), with a center that appears as one or more pinpoints of black. It is important to note that warts can be very resistant to treatment and have a tendency to recur.
Source of the Virus
The plantar wart is often contracted by walking barefoot on dirty surfaces or littered ground where the virus is lurking. The virus thrives in warm, moist environments, making infection a common occurrence in communal bathing facilities.
If left untreated, warts can grow to an inch or more in size and can spread into clusters of several warts; these are often called mosaic warts. Like any other infectious lesion, plantar warts are spread by touching, scratching, or even by contact with skin shed from another wart. The wart may also bleed, another route for spreading.
Occasionally, warts can spontaneously disappear after a short time, and, just as frequently, they can recur in the same location.
When plantar warts develop on the weight-bearing areas of the foot—such as the ball of the foot or the heel—they can be the source of sharp, burning pain. Pain occurs when weight is brought to bear directly on the wart, although pressure on the side of a wart can create equally intense pain.