Common warts, or verrucae, are benign viral tumors limited to the surface layers of the skin. They are found more commonly in children and young adults and generally begin in the summertime when bare feet allow the virus to penetrate the skin.
Warts can be found any place on the body and protrude from the surface of the skin in all but one area. The pressure of walking on the bottom of the foot causes warts on this surface to bury deeply and painfully into the skin. These are known as plantar (sole of foot) warts.
Commonly mistaken for corns, calluses, or even splinters or glass fragments, they frequently go untreated until walking becomes difficult or painful.
Since warts are viral growths, they are contagious and should not be scratched or picked. They rarely spread to other people, however, so the main caution is against auto contagion (self-spreading). Interestingly, all warts do not respond in the same way to all treatments, and some like mosaic warts are very aggressive and spread and multiply quickly. While over the counter remedies may cure some warts, many will be resistant and these fast spreading growths deserve professional care.
As no one form of treatment works for all warts, there are a variety of professional therapies available. Chemical cautery, electrocautery, cryotherapy, and surgical excision are often used.
Warts have a callused roof below which are blood vessels and nerve endings with the virus resting at the base of the tumor. All forms of treatment are designed to get below this layer viri, leaving a defect which is then brought back to normal tissue. The most commonly used therapy, chemical cautery, involves the application of acids of varying strengths. These kill the surface tissue which is then retreated weekly by the doctor. This is done with reapplication of the required medicine until the wart is completely gone. The treatment is usually painless but may require many weeks of therapy.
In most other forms of treatment, the wart is anesthetized and either an electrical spark (dessication), dry ice (cryotherapy), or scalpel (surgery) will allow for complete removal of the wart. Dressings are changed when necessary and the area is usually healed in about four weeks time. Padding within the dressing prevents any interruption of one’s normal routine.
Any enlarging or painful growth on the foot which does not respond to conservative care should be evaluated by your podiatrist. If it is a wart it can be safely, comfortably and permanently removed.
This information has been prepared by the Consumer Education Committee of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, a professional society of 5,700 podiatric foot and ankle surgeons. Members of the College are Doctors of Podiatric Medicine who have received additional training through surgical residency programs. The mission of the College is to promote superior care of foot and ankle surgical patients through education, research and the promotion of the highest professional standards. Copyright © 2004, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, www.acfas.org