St. Luke's - Warts and Plantar Warts (2023)

Condition Basics

What are warts?

Warts are skin growths caused by a virus. Warts can grow anywhere on the body. There are different kinds. For example, common warts grow most often on the hands, but they can grow anywhere. Plantar warts grow on the soles of the feet. Most warts go away on their own within months or years.

How do they spread?

Warts are spread by direct contact with a human papillomavirus (HPV). You can infect yourself again by touching the wart and then touching another part of your body. You can infect another person by sharing towels, razors, or other items. After contact with HPV, it can take months before you notice a wart.

What are the symptoms?

A wart may be a bump with a rough surface, or it may be flat and smooth. Plantar warts can look like a callus. Warts are usually painless. But a wart that grows in a spot where you put pressure, such as on a finger or the bottom of the foot, can be painful.

How are they diagnosed?

A doctor usually can tell if a skin growth is a wart by looking at it. Your doctor may take a sample of the wart if it isn't clear that the growth is a wart or if the growth is darker than the skin around it, is irregular, bleeds, or is large and fast-growing.

How are warts treated?

Most warts don't need treatment. They generally go away on their own. But if you have warts that are painful or are spreading, you can treat them with salicylic acid or duct tape. Or your doctor can treat them with medicine or by freezing or removing them.

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Cause

A wart is caused by some types of the virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV infects the top layer of skin. It usually enters the body in an area of broken skin. The virus causes the top layer of skin to grow very fast, forming a wart.

Prevention

The main way to prevent warts is to avoid contact with the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes warts. If you are exposed to this virus, you may or may not get warts, depending on how susceptible you are to the virus. Here are some tips to help avoid HPV.

  • Avoid touching warts on yourself or others.
  • Don't share razors, towels, socks, or shoes with another person.

    Someone with no visible warts can still be carrying the virus.

  • Avoid walking barefoot on warm, moist surfaces where the wart virus may be alive.

    Wear shower shoes when using public showers, locker rooms, or pool areas.

  • Keep your feet dry.

    If your feet sweat heavily, wear socks that absorb moisture or wick it away from the skin.

    (Video) Home treatment for warts

  • Avoid irritating the soles of your feet.

    Warts grow more easily if your skin has been injured or broken in some way.

You can help prevent warts from spreading. Keep your warts covered with a bandage or athletic tape. Don't bite your nails or cuticles, as this may spread warts from one finger to another.

Symptoms

Plantar warts

St. Luke's - Warts and Plantar Warts (1)

Plantar warts occur on the soles of the feet. They look like hard, thick patches of skin with dark specks. Multiple plantar warts can form in a large, flat cluster known as a "mosaic wart."

Common warts

St. Luke's - Warts and Plantar Warts (2)

Common warts appear most often on the hands. But they may appear anywhere on the body. They are rough, gray-brown, dome-shaped growths. They may have a cauliflower-like appearance.

Flat warts

St. Luke's - Warts and Plantar Warts (3)

Flat warts are usually found on the face, arms, or legs. They are small (usually smaller than the eraser on the end of a pencil), and there are usually several in one area. They have flat tops and can be pink, light brown, or light yellow. Flat warts are often spread by shaving.

When to Call a Doctor

See your doctor if:

  • You aren't sure if a skin growth is a wart.
  • Nonprescription home treatment isn't successful after 2 to 3 months.
  • Warts are growing or spreading rapidly despite treatment.
  • Signs of infection develop. These may include:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • A plantar wart becomes too painful to walk on.
  • You have diabetes or peripheral arterial disease and you need treatment for a wart on a leg or foot.
  • You have warts on your genitals or around the anus.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a wait-and-see approach. It's often okay to try this approach with warts, because they generally go away on their own within months or years. But you may want to consider treating a wart to prevent it from spreading to other parts of your body or to other people. You can try a nonprescription wart treatment for 2 to 3 months before deciding to see a doctor.

Treatment Overview

Most warts don't need treatment. They generally go away on their own within months or years. But if you have warts that are painful or are spreading, or if you're bothered by the way they look, your treatment choices include:

  • Using a home treatment such as salicylic acid or duct tape. You can get these without a prescription.
  • Putting a stronger medicine on the wart, or getting a shot of medicine in it.
  • Freezing the wart (cryotherapy). There is an over-the-counter medicine you can use at home. Or you can have your doctor freeze it for you.
  • Removing the wart with surgery (electrosurgery, curettage, laser surgery).

Surgery is more likely to leave scars. That's why it's mostly used to treat warts that are hard to remove or that keep coming back.

Wart treatment doesn't always work. Even after a wart shrinks or goes away, warts may come back or spread to other parts of the body. This is because most treatments destroy the wart but don't kill the virus that causes the wart.

Learn more

  • Cryotherapy for Warts
  • Laser Surgery for Warts
  • Warts: Should I Treat Warts?
(Video) GENITAL WARTS, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Self-Care

  • Use salicylic acid or duct tape as your doctor directs. You put the medicine or the tape on a wart for several days and then file down the dead skin on the wart. You use the salicylic acid treatment for 2 to 3 months or the tape for 1 to 2 months.
  • If your doctor prescribes medicine to put on warts, use it exactly as directed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

To avoid spreading warts

  • Keep warts covered with a bandage or athletic tape.
  • Don't bite your nails or cuticles. This may spread warts from one finger to another.

Reducing pain caused by plantar warts

Plantar warts can be on any part of the foot. But they cause the most discomfort when they are on a pressure point such as the heel. You can help reduce plantar wart pain by doing these things.

Learn more

  • Using Tape to Remove Warts
  • Warts: Using Salicylic Acid

Related Information

  • Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus)

Credits

Current as of: November 15, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Patrice Burgess MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine

Current as of: November 15, 2021

FAQs

What is the difference between warts and plantar warts? ›

Common warts can occur in almost any body area. Frequent places for common warts are the hands and knees. When common warts are located around the fingernails, they are called periungual warts (picture 2). Plantar warts: Plantar warts are found on the soles of the feet.

Does having a plantar wart mean I have HPV? ›

Plantar warts are caused by an infection with HPV in the outer layer of skin on the soles of the feet. The warts develop when the virus enters through tiny cuts, breaks or weak spots on the bottom of the foot. If left untreated, warts can last from a few months to 2 years in children, and several years in in adults.

What kind of doctor helps with plantar warts? ›

Podiatrists use a variety of treatments to remove warts more quickly. These include topical medications, cryotherapy, laser therapy, and surgical removal. If you have foot warts that are bothering you, please consult with a podiatrist. Plantar warts can be very uncomfortable.

Can you permanently get rid of plantar warts? ›

Laser surgery – Laser treatments burn the tiny blood vessels inside the plantar wart. Eventually, the infected tissue dies and the wart falls off. There is less potential for scarring than other surgeries.

What happens to a plantar wart if left untreated? ›

If left untreated, plantar warts can grow up to 1 inch in circumference and may spread into clusters called mosaic warts. In severe cases, they can cause a change in gait or posture that results in leg or back pain–our job is to make sure that doesn't happen. What are the prevention/treatment options?

What is the fastest way to get rid of a plantar wart? ›

Treatment
  1. Freezing medicine (cryotherapy). Cryotherapy is done in a clinic and involves applying liquid nitrogen to the wart, either with a spray or a cotton swab. ...
  2. Stronger peeling medicine (salicylic acid). Prescription-strength wart medications with salicylic acid work by removing a wart a layer at a time.
21 May 2022

Is a plantar wart an STD? ›

These kinds of HPV are spread during sexual contact. (Other types of HPV cause common warts like hand warts and plantar warts on the feet — but these aren't sexually transmitted.)

Are plantar warts a big deal? ›

They're quite annoying at first, and may even become painful if they grow large. Although most plantar warts will go away on their own after a few years, it's possible to remove them through self-care or with a doctor's help. Most warts are fairly harmless.

Can stress cause HPV warts? ›

Psychological stress is an important factor involved in disease manifestations of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, and it can participate in HPV-associated carcinogenesis. The impact or effect which stress can have (exert) depends on a person's genetic pool, experiences and behaviors.

How do podiatrists remove plantar warts? ›

Treating plantar warts

Topical medications. Laser therapy. Cryotherapy, or freezing. Shaving the wart and applying a special acid.

How deep can plantar warts go? ›

This is painless. Warts live within the top layer of skin, or epidermis, and do not extend deeper into the areas where you have fat, large blood vessels, nerves, or muscles. It may feel as though the wart is very deep with roots due to the hardness of the skin around it, but this is not the case.

What do podiatrists put on plantar warts? ›

Salicylic acid is the “workhorse” for most podiatrists and family practitioners. Salicylic acid comes in varying strengths from over-the-counter (OTC) preparations at 17% to physician-only manufactured preparations of 55%.

What's the longest a plantar wart can last? ›

The warts develop when the virus enters through tiny cuts, breaks or weak spots on the bottom of the foot. If left untreated, warts can last from a few months to 2 years in children, and several years in in adults. HPV is very common, and more than 100 kinds of the virus exist.

Why are plantar warts so difficult to get rid of? ›

Plantar warts are particularly hard to treat. The reason is that you may get rid of the wart, but the virus lies dormant beneath the skin. Weeks to months later, it can trigger another wart to grow. The goal of treatment is to destroy the wart and its virus while causing as little damage as possible to healthy skin.

Why do I keep getting more plantar warts? ›

If your plantar warts return, it means that HPV is still present in your body and that it is growing. Don't let this alarm you, though. The type of HPV that leads to plantar warts is very mild and causes few problems.

Can Apple cider vinegar get rid of plantar warts? ›

Vinegar burns and gradually destroys the infected skin, making the wart fall off eventually, like the way salicylic acid works. The irritation caused by the acid boosts the immune system's ability to combat the virus responsible for the wart.

Can you have a wart for life? ›

Warts usually clear up without treatment. However, it can take up to 2 years for the virus to leave your system and the warts to disappear. The length of time it takes for a wart to disappear will vary from person to person. They tend to last longer in older children and adults.

What kills plantar warts at home? ›

Salicylic acid and liquid nitrogen are the most common treatments. Both require multiple treatments over several weeks to get rid of the wart or warts. Salicylic acid is available over the counter. You can use it at home.

What does a planters wart look like when it comes out? ›

Plantar warts are usually flat, and either brown, gray or flesh-colored. They can sometimes have black dots in the center, which are tiny capillaries that supply the wart with blood. Warts can grow individually or appear in clusters. They may be painful when you apply pressure to the bottom of the foot or walk on them.

How do you stop warts from growing back? ›

Why Do My Warts Keep Coming Back?
  1. Keep your hands clean.
  2. Take care of your skin and don't bite your nails.
  3. Take care of cuts and scrapes with bandages.
  4. Always wear footwear around pools and public showers.
  5. Avoid touching warts on yourself or others.
  6. Avoid dull razors when shaving to prevent cuts.
21 Mar 2018

Can you get planters warts on your private parts? ›

Although warts and herpes are contagious, warts on your hands or feet cannot be transferred to the genital area, and vice versa. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the culprit behind all warts on the human body. HPV has hundreds of different variations — or “strains” — with which an individual may become infected.

Are plantar warts something to worry about? ›

A plantar wart is a harmless skin growth. Plantar warts occur on the bottom of your feet and may be painful when you walk. A virus makes the top layer of skin grow quickly, causing a wart. Warts usually go away on their own in months or years.

What STD causes warts on feet? ›

Warts are tiny skin infections caused by viruses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. Although kids get warts most often, teens and adults can get them too. Sometimes warts are sexually transmitted and appear in the genital area. But most warts affect the fingers, hands, and feet.

Is it OK to leave warts untreated? ›

Warts are harmless. In most cases, they go away on their own within months or years. If warts spread or cause pain, or if you don't like the way they look, you may want to treat them. Treatments for warts don't always work.

Can plantar warts be cancerous? ›

Q: Can plantar warts be cancerous? A: In the vast majority of cases, plantar warts are harmless and pose no risk of cancer. Certain types of the HPV virus, however, can lead to some cancers. If plantar warts do not respond to treatment and continue to grow, a biopsy should be carried out to check for cancerous cells.

Can anxiety cause warts? ›

Can stress cause warts? Stress won't itself cause warts – that's down to the HPV virus. However, when you're under stress, your immune system's ability to fight off antigens can decrease. So, it could be implied that you're more susceptible to infections, such as HPV, if your body is feeling the effects of stress.

Do you have HPV for life? ›

In most cases (9 out of 10), HPV goes away on its own within two years without health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.

What Stds give you warts? ›

Genital warts are a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a virus called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus is passed on through direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has HPV on their skin. It can be passed from person to person during vaginal and anal sex.

How much does it cost to remove a plantar wart? ›

How much does it cost to remove a plantar wart? The pricing varies, but usually covered by health care insurance. Cash prices vary from $50 with topical medication, $100 with cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen), to $500 if surgically removed.

How painful is plantar wart surgery? ›

It's performed under local anaesthetic so no pain is felt during the procedure. It has good outcomes and efficacy compared to other treatments. Because the wart is removed on the day, any pain or discomfort caused by the wart will be alleviated once the surgical site heals.

How does duct tape get rid of plantar warts? ›

With duct tape therapy, apply a small piece of duct tape directly on the wart once every 4 to 7 days; then remove the tape, clean the area with soap and water, and remove the dead skin using an emery board. Apply another piece of tape 12 hours later. Repeat this cycle for 4 to 6 weeks.

What are the black dots in plantar warts? ›

Tiny black dots.

These often appear on the surface of the wart. The dots are actually dried blood contained in the capillaries (tiny blood vessels). Plantar warts grow deep into the skin. Usually, this growth occurs slowly with the wart starting small and becoming larger over time.

Does Dr Scholl's work for plantar warts? ›

This medication is used on the skin to treat common skin and foot (plantar) warts. Salicylic acid helps cause the wart to gradually peel off. This medication is also used to help remove corns and calluses.

What happens if you have a wart for years? ›

Most warts will persist for one to two years if they are left untreated. Eventually, the body will recognize the virus and fight it off, causing the wart to disappear. While they remain, however, warts can spread very easily when people pick at them or when they are on the hands, feet or face.

What does it mean if a wart won't go away? ›

Q: What should I do if a common wart won't go away? A: If a wart does not go away after treatment with prescription and/or home remedies, it is recommended that you see a doctor to rule out other conditions and ensure that the most appropriate treatment is being used.

Are plantar warts contagious in shower? ›

The short answer is yes. The virus is certainly contagious – however, you need direct contact to spread HPV. Plantar warts can and do spread within households, often through sharing shower and floor areas.

What deficiency causes plantar warts? ›

Patients with plantar warts had significantly lower mean serum vitamin B12 level than patients without warts. Therefore, we suggest that patients with warts should be assessed for serum vitamin B12 levels.

Are all warts on feet plantar warts? ›

Causes. Plantar warts are caused by HPV, which is a group of viruses that can affect your skin. HPV can cause warts on other parts of your body, but only the warts on your feet are classified as plantar warts.

What does plantar wart look like? ›

Plantar warts often look like circular spots of thick, callused skin. These spots will typically have tiny black dots on the surface, which are actually bits of dried blood. Plantar warts are usually flat and grow inwards as pressure from walking is applied to them. This often leads to pain.

How do I know what kind of wart I have? ›

Types of warts
  1. Common warts (verruca vulgaris) – these look like hard, raised lumps with rough surfaces. ...
  2. Flat warts (verruca plana) – these look like smooth, flattened lumps. ...
  3. Filiform warts – these look like thin, long threads. ...
  4. Mosaic warts – these appear as a group of tightly clustered warts.

Are plantar warts contagious by touch? ›

The short answer is yes. The virus is certainly contagious – however, you need direct contact to spread HPV. Plantar warts can and do spread within households, often through sharing shower and floor areas.

Why do I keep getting plantar warts on my feet? ›

You got these warts by stepping bare-footed onto a surface that had been contaminated by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It's a common virus that lurks in public areas and sticks to surfaces like public showers, gym floors and equipment, playgrounds, and doorknobs.

What virus causes plantar warts? ›

Plantar warts and palmar warts are noncancerous skin growths, caused by a viral infection in the top layer of the skin. The culprit is a strain of virus called human papillomavirus or HPV.

Should I be worried about plantar warts? ›

For the most part, warts are a minor inconvenience, and certainly not a serious medical problem. While many people think they can just use an over-the-counter product, that's not the best plan. If you get a plantar wart (foot wart), you really need to see a doctor for treatment.

What is the main cause of warts? ›

What causes warts? Warts are caused by an infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). The virus causes an excess amount of keratin, a hard protein, to develop in the top skin layer (epidermis). The extra keratin produces the rough, hard texture of a wart.

How can you tell if a wart is HPV? ›

Your doctor will examine you or take a biopsy (a sample of the wart) to see if you have genital warts. They might draw a blood sample to test for HIV and syphilis. Depending on the results, they may also refer you to a specialist for further testing.

Are there non STD warts? ›

Non-genital warts (verrucas) are an extremely common, benign, and usually a self-limited skin disease. Infection of epidermal cells with the human papillomavirus (HPV) results in cell proliferation and a thickened, warty papule on the skin.

Can plantar warts spread through shoes? ›

Plantar warts are spread through direct contact – either with someone that has the virus, or from sharing floors, shoes and socks with someone who has the virus.

How deep is a plantar wart? ›

This is painless. Warts live within the top layer of skin, or epidermis, and do not extend deeper into the areas where you have fat, large blood vessels, nerves, or muscles. It may feel as though the wart is very deep with roots due to the hardness of the skin around it, but this is not the case.

Can plantar warts spread to privates? ›

Although warts and herpes are contagious, warts on your hands or feet cannot be transferred to the genital area, and vice versa. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the culprit behind all warts on the human body. HPV has hundreds of different variations — or “strains” — with which an individual may become infected.

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