Some viruses attack your upper respiratory tract, like colds and flu, others cause gastrointestinal problems like rotavirus, but some affect your skin, like the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes warts. Although most warts aren’t considered a serious medical condition, some can be a symptom of problems that need medical attention, such as sexually transmitted infections.
There are more than 150 different strains of HPV, and they infect about 40% of the United States population every year. Of those, roughly 14% develop warts on their feet called plantar warts.
Dr. Daniel Preece and Dr. Darren Groberg, our podiatrists at Utah Musculoskeletal Specialists in Salt Lake City, Utah, provide expert care for our patients who suffer from the discomfort, pain, and embarrassment of plantar warts.
They compiled the following guidelines to help you understand your plantar warts and your treatment options.
Plantar warts may be either single or multiple (clustered or mosaic), and they embed themselves in the deep layers of your skin. In fact, some plantar warts aren’t even visible. When they do appear on the surface, you might think you have a callus at first, because the thickened skin resembles one.
As plantar warts grow and multiply, they often become painful, making it difficult to walk. As the blood vessels within a plantar wart die, you might see their remnants, which look like tiny black dots in or on your warts.
Like any virus that enters your body, HPV may run its course and resolve on its own with no medical intervention. If and when it does, the plantar warts it caused will eventually disappear as well.
Ultimately, it depends on your immune system. Children and adolescents suffer from plantar warts more often than adults, and left untreated, up to 78% of them shrink or go away in about two years. After age 12, though, your chances of getting rid of plantar warts without medical help decreases significantly. Fortunately, we have treatments that can speed up the process.
Common warts on your hands, knees, and elbows generally respond best to cryotherapy (freezing), laser therapy, oral medications, and topical solutions, including acid treatments. Sometimes, it’s necessary to surgically remove stubborn warts.
But plantar warts are in a league of their own. The most effective treatment for plantar warts is a medication called bleomycin. Best known as a cancer-killing medication, bleomycin can stop the growth of cells in your painful plantar warts as well. Depending on the size, location, and severity of your plantar wart, we may douse it with a couple drops of bleomycin or inject some into the wart to work from within.
Plantar warts may regress on their own in a few years, but they often stick around for much longer than that, and they tend to grow and multiply. Once they become painful, they may affect your gait, which can lead to pain and discomfort throughout your body, including your legs, hips, and low back.
To avoid complications, schedule an appointment with us today for a professional evaluation of your warts and our best treatments options. Call us at our Salt Lake City office or use our online tool to request a consultation.