What Causes Planter Warts?

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Plantar warts--hard, flattened, round regions on the soles of the feet--aren't a serious health threat. But they can cause great pain while walking or running to the point where they interfere with day-to-day activities. Plantar warts aren't considered highly contagious, although certain environments are more hospitable to the virus that causes them.

What Are Plantar Warts?

Plantar warts, also called foot warts, are present on the sole of the foot, or the plantar area. These warts aren't raised above the skin's surface because the pressure exerted by the rest of the body causes them to flatten. Plantar warts can be very painful and are often described by those who have them as feeling like pebbles in their shoes.

Plantar Wart Causes

Plantar warts are caused by coming into direct contact with one of some 100 types of human papillomaviruses (HPV). While some strains of HPV cause warts to appear on the hands, fingers or even the genitals, the type that causes plantar warts affects the soles of the feet--it usually goes away on its own within two years.

Are Plantar Warts Contagious?

Plantar warts are not considered extremely contagious, although they are more easily spread in optimal environments: warm and damp. The HPV that causes plantar warts thrives in shower floors, locker rooms and public swimming pools. Plantar warts can also be spread to other body parts when someone touches or itches at the warts and touches another area of the skin. They can also be spread to other people through skin-to-skin contact.

Plantar Wart Treatment

According to the Mayo Clinic, plantar warts can be effectively treated at home using an over-the-counter medication that contains salicylic acid. Duct-taping plantar warts until they resolve themselves can also be an effective cure. But when plantar warts are unresponsive to drugstore topicals and home remedies, there are in-office procedures and prescription medications that can help.

Medical Treatment for Plantar Warts

In-office treatments that use cryotherapy (chemical freezing) or cantharidin or interferon injections can be used to treat plantar warts. More invasive treatments, such as cutting out the wart through conventional or laser surgery, are effective but often more painful than less intrusive methods. A prescription topical cream called imiquimod--which is also used to treat other types of warts--can be used by patients at home. If plantar warts have not resolved with any other type of therapy, a doctor may inject the warts with bleomycin, a medication that's also used to treat certain forms of cancer.

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