What’s the Difference Between a Plantar Wart and Any Other Kind of Wart? The short answer – not much! All warts are caused by the human papilloma virus. The virus is contagious from one person to another and there must be some skin contact with the virus either directly from person to person or from commonly touched surfaces. They can be flat or raised and can appear on just about any part of the body. Warts often have small dark spots embedded in them, which can be confusing and make it seem like there’s some foreign object, like a splinter, under the skin. In reality those little black dots are tiny blood vessels that grow up into the wart. A wart can appear as a single lesion by itself or it can multiply into several lesions of just about any size. All warts can be difficult to eradicate and, for that reason, there are literally dozens of treatment options available (because NONE of the treatments is 100% effective!). Warts are more commonly seen in children and young adults than in older people (one of the few things you are actually LESS likely to get as you age!). Warts live only on the skin and the virus cannot travel in your bloodstream.

Okay then, what’s the deal with plantar warts? Why do they have their own name?

Plantar warts are really just warts that develop on the bottom of the foot, also known as the PLANTAR surface of the body. That’s the only reason they have a special name. What IS different about plantar warts is that they are usually painful – because you’re walking around on them all day! The pressure from walking causes dead, calloused skin to develop around the warts, which makes them get bigger and causes even more pressure to the area. You usually develop wart lesions on the bottom of the feet as a result of walking where someone else who already has the virus has walked. The virus seems to thrive in damp environments. Many people acquire the virus after walking barefoot at the beach, around the swimming pool, at the gym, or areas where people exercise barefoot such as martial arts, gymnastics or yoga studios. Plantar warts do tend to be more difficult to treat than warts on other parts of the body. That is because the skin on the bottoms of the feet is much thicker than the skin anywhere else. Because of this some of the more common wart treatments, like over-the-counter acid medications and liquid nitrogen, are not nearly as effective on plantar warts.

What should you do if you have a plantar wart? 

Don’t mess around – see a podiatrist! For one thing you need to make sure the skin lesion is actually a wart. For another, if you don’t treat the wart it’s likely to get bigger, multiply, and/or become more painful. Besides that, not treating the wart means that you could be spreading the virus to you family or friends. Yuk! Finally, over-the-counter treatments are rarely effective on warts and the podiatrist is the one most equipped to get rid of them for you.

Richard H. Graves, DPM
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Podiatrist, Sports Medicine Specialist